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Business of the House

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 13 October 2022

May I start by associating myself with the many remembrances and tributes that have been paid to our dearly missed late colleague, Sir David Amess? Mr Speaker, I hope you will allow me to say that of the many organisations Sir David supported, perhaps the best known is the Music Man Project. Next week will see the first ever live performance of its new Christmas single, the first record it has ever produced. In its efforts, it is being supported by a little-known backing group called the Royal Marines Band. I hope all Members will buy a copy of the single and support this amazing cause.

The business for the week commencing 17 October will include:

Monday 17 October—Subject to the House agreeing a motion on today’s Order Paper, the House will sit from 2 pm in order for any Members who wish to take the oath or make the affirmation to do so. Oral questions will then take place in the usual way from 2.30 pm, followed by consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Energy Prices Bill.

Tuesday 18 October—Remaining stages of the Public Order Bill, followed by consideration of a motion relating to the Committee on Standards reports into the code of conduct and its recommendation relating to appeals and a procedural protocol in the House’s conduct system.

Wednesday 19 October—Opposition day (5th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 20 October—Debate on a motion on NHS dentistry, followed by a general debate on investing in the future of motor neurone disease. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 21 October—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 24 October includes:

Monday 24 October—Consideration of out-of-turn supplementary estimates relating to HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, followed by proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Adjustments) Bill, followed by consideration of a resolution relating to stamp duty land tax (reduction), followed by all stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Reduction) Bill.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and I join her and Members across the House in their tributes to our lost friend, David Amess, who will be very much in our thoughts in the coming days.

I am glad that yesterday’s motion on proxy voting seems to have inspired the right hon. Lady to press ahead with other important matters of House business, such as the Standards Committee recommendations on the Members’ code of conduct, which I have been calling on the Government to introduce for months—and now here it is. But, as with everything from this Government, it is half-baked. It appears that they are planning to bring in only the bits on appeals. Why? Will she tell us which of the other recommendations to raise standards for MPs she does not like? Is it the one about banning MPs from doing paid consultancy work? We know the reputational damage that has caused to Parliament recently. Is it the one about increasing the transparency of Members’ interests? Or are they just planning to shelve these measures altogether? Have they simply given up on standards in public life?

Despite the hard work of civil servants, Members continue to raise with me the long delays and inadequate responses that they experience when making representations to the Home Office on our constituents’ behalf. The Department said that it aims to answer all queries by the end of February 2023 and to return to its 20-day service standard by March. That is not good enough. It is important that Ministers provide MPs with the timely, quality responses that we are entitled to and that our constituents deserve. I have written to the Leader of the House on that issue and I look forward to receiving a response addressing my concerns, including the impact on our staff workload and our constituents’ lives. Will she talk to the Home Secretary about the importance of providing responses to MPs?

It is a pleasure to be back at business questions after party conference season. I hope that the right hon. Lady was watching the Labour conference as closely as I was keeping an eye on hers. It looks like she had a great time, all things considered. It is amazing what can get you cheers and applause at a Tory fringe event these days. I think I saw the right hon. Lady saying, “Our policies are great but our comms are sh—shocking”; let us go with that to keep it parliamentary. On comms, I agree, but people across the country know that her Government’s policies are sh—shocking too; I might as well make it work twice. Government Ministers know that themselves or they would not keep U-turning on them. It has been one policy for the pre-record and another for the time it is broadcast.

If only the Government had listened to Labour, because just before the Chancellor’s mini-Budget turned into a major disaster, I asked the Leader of the House whether Members could receive economic briefing papers and an independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecast, and have a proper chance to scrutinise the Chancellor’s tax cuts for the richest 1%. Labour does not ask for those things just for the sake of it; we are His Majesty’s loyal Opposition and it is our job to hold the Government to account on behalf of the people we all serve. It is the role of the House to examine and scrutinise the work of Government.

As the House’s representative in Government, has the right hon. Lady made that point to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor? Have the Government learned? Will they publish the OBR document as soon as they get it? Can the Leader of the House guarantee that her Government will never again seek to swerve scrutiny in such a catastrophic way that working people are left to pick up the Government’s very expensive bill?

“Funereal” and “unspeakably bleak”—just some of last night’s savage stream of consciousness flowing from the 1922 Committee of Tory Back Benchers. Oh dear, oh dear. The country’s economic outlook is almost as grim as the faces on the Government Benches during Prime Minister’s questions. The Leader of the House could not even muster a nod for her Prime Minister, and why would she? They have crashed the economy, sent mortgages and prices sky-high and damaged the UK’s reputation on the world stage, and we are all left paying the price. This is a Tory crisis made in Downing Street. The Government must end this “roll the dice” economics, reverse their Budget and abandon their failed trickle-down approach, because only Labour—the party of sound money—will get this country back on track and deliver a fresh start for the British people.

First, let me address the hon. Lady’s comments about my facial expressions: my resting face is that of a bulldog chewing a wasp, and people should not read too much into that.

Let me address the hon. Lady’s questions. The motion next week will focus on appeals, but I will also update the House about other measures. It is not that we are not doing them; it is just that we particularly want to press ahead with the appeals issue. A lot of my work has focused on ensuring that we can do something swiftly about the declarations issue. I have already spoken to the Chair of the Standards Committee about it, and we are bringing other things forward, including a motion on Tuesday’s Order Paper about the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

I completely agree with the hon. Lady about questions, and particularly about the issues at the Home Office. I have already raised the matter with the Home Secretary; on receiving her letter, I summoned the permanent secretary to come and see me to discuss the matter in detail. I know that it is a concern for many Members of the House. We need to ensure that the Home Office can meet demand.

I am guilty as charged: I was playing to the crowd as I was addressing a room full of communications professionals. That was my profession in a former life, and they always get the blame for things, even when it is not their fault.

With regard to the other issues that the hon. Lady raises, our prime concern in this Government is to deliver for the people of this country. That means delivering the Prime Minister’s plan of modernising our economy, tackling people’s priorities on the cost of living, ensuring that they can get access to healthcare and supporting business. We are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly the war in Ukraine, which is not just a war against the people of Ukraine but an economic war against every hospital, every school, every business and every household in this country. We are determined to win that war.

With regard to our record—against a backdrop of having no money left when we came into office, I remind Opposition Members—we are the party that has held down fuel duty, has introduced a living wage and has created a modern welfare system that saw millions through the pandemic. Labour’s legacy systems would have collapsed. In this Parliament, we are investing £4 billion in skills. We have introduced T-levels. We have doubled free childcare. We introduced the triple lock. Millions of households will be getting direct payments to protect the most vulnerable this winter. We have modernised the universal credit taper rate and provided £1,400, on average, to help households to combat rising energy prices. We have made the largest cash investment in affordable housing for a decade. We introduced the Tenant Fees Act 2019. Those are all things that protect vulnerable people.

Our record is nearly 4 million people back in work since 2010, unemployment halved, 2 million more women in work and 1 million more disabled people in work. [Hon. Members: “More!”] I shall not indulge myself any longer, but that is the Conservatives’ record. It is Labour and those on the Opposition Benches who are anti-more money in your pocket, anti-better public services and anti-protecting the most vulnerable. It is the anti-growth coalition whose—[Interruption.]

Order. If Members are enjoying this, they should try to be restrained in their enjoyment. If not, that cup of tea awaits them very soon.

I just want to conclude by saying that it is the anti-growth coalition whose policies are sh—shocking.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the fire burning for over five weeks at Kiveton Park industrial estate in Rother Valley. It is having an impact on local residents, creating fumes and choking smoke that is affecting their everyday life. The burning 100,000-tonne, 30-metre-high waste pile is being tackled by firefighters as we speak, but they are in desperate need of more heavy machinery to aid them. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Environment Agency to direct more plant machinery to the fire service in Kiveton Park as a matter of urgency? What does she advise regarding avenues of compensation for my residents, who have endured this hellish situation for so long?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this terrible situation. I understand that the Environment Agency has several pieces of machinery on site to assist, and that operators have been working on the site since Friday to break apart waste so that they can get water to the site of the fire. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s concerns to the several relevant Departments that could assist. I ask him to keep my office posted so we can ensure that he gets swift responses and that we are able to help in this appalling situation. I thank him for raising it.

Let me begin by associating myself with the comments of the Leader of the House about Sir David Amess.

We are struggling through particularly difficult days, and the Prime Minister’s desperate deflection from the topic of the economic crisis, and her Business Secretary’s refusal even to admit that the dramatic crash just after the mini-Budget had anything to do with it, fail to reassure. However, this was also a week in which Tory politicians clutched their pearls in horror to discover that many people in the UK—including our First Minister in Scotland—do not like the fact that they support a party whose increasingly chaotic mismanagement and cold-hearted political ideology are viewed with utter abhorrence.

It seems that this blindness to reality goes all the way to the top. In her conference speech, the Prime Minister said:

“I know what it is like to live somewhere that isn’t feeling the benefits of economic growth. I grew up in Paisley and in Leeds in the 80s and 90s. I have seen the boarded-up shops…I have seen families struggling to put food on the table.”

That was an odd reference, given that those were of course the days of the Government of her hero, the late Margaret Thatcher—although, as she seems intent on returning us to those days, perhaps not. After all, this Government are threatening “iron discipline” on spending and “difficult decisions” coming down the line. May we therefore have a debate entitled “Economic History: Lessons Learned”? I understand that the Chancellor studied that subject at Cambridge; I think it is about time he had a refresher.

This week sees the start of the independence referendum Supreme Court case. I note that back in June 2014, before the last independence referendum, the Scotland Office issued a research and analysis sheet on the Scots’ personal finance, which stated:

“As part of the UK, our savings are protected by UK-wide institutions and the costs of the essentials you spend money on—like energy and mortgage bills—are kept lower and more stable than they would otherwise be.”

Just how far removed that is from where we find ourselves today would almost be funny were it not so frightening for our constituents. May we have a debate examining the promises—the vows, if you like—made to the Scottish people at the time of the last referendum which have let them down so badly, to ensure that they will not be misled again before the next one?

The hon. Lady has made an excellent suggestion for a debate. We could talk about the tax dividend that every Scottish household receives as a result of being part of the United Kingdom. We could talk about the various schemes that the UK Government have provided to support our people through the cost of living issues that we are facing—most recently, the enormous energy pricing package. We could also discuss the Scottish National party’s record on drugs, on health, on education, even perhaps on bin collection; and finally, we could discuss SNP Members’ total lack of self-awareness when it comes to their own tragic record.

Today the BBC journalists Michael Keohan and Colin Campbell released a shocking report on the channel crossings. It showed people smugglers selling their wares brazenly in the migrant camps and many children living in unsafe and dangerous conditions, as well as—this is breathtaking—a free French public bus service that migrants can use to travel directly from the camps to the Dunkirk departure beaches. Will my right hon. Friend allow a statement on the issue of tackling the small boat crossings and the Government’s response in their work with France?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this appalling matter. I have not seen the programme myself, but I have heard reports of it and I know that the Home Secretary will want to examine its findings. This is not just about border security in the UK; it is about the treatment of very vulnerable individuals, and also about the facilitation of crime. I am sure that the Home Secretary will want to look at this, and I will draw it, and my hon. Friend’s comments, to her attention.

I thank the Leader of the House for her statement, and for announcing the Backbench Business debates for next Thursday, 20 October. If we are given the time, we have provisional offers on the stocks, for the following Thursday, of debates on a national food strategy and food security and on an independent review of children’s social care.

Quite a number of businesses in a range of sectors in my constituency, and also, interestingly, from further afield, have asked me whether we can extract from the Government urgently needed information about exactly what help with energy bills will be available to them and when, as current deals come to an end or have already ended and they face potential rises of 600% or 700%, with no certainty about how that is to be sorted out. May we have an urgent statement to reassure businesses that wish to survive in order to grow now and into the future?

Finally, may I ask the Leader of the House to join me in celebrating Colleges Week? We will be celebrating the work of colleges across the country for the whole of next week.

Yes, I will join the hon. Gentleman in that, and I will be taking part in events next week to help all who do such an incredible job for people of all ages. I thank him for raising that and for bearing with me to make sure his Committee gets time, given the unusual start to this parliamentary term.

I will raise with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I know that many of the schemes the Government are bringing forward to assist businesses are very complicated, and the Secretary of State is doing a good job of explaining how they work. He is always open to holding sessions with Members of Parliament to talk them through that, as well as coming to this House to update Members.

During the summer recess, I toured most Departments to discuss with civil servants why there is a failure—an abysmal failure, in some cases—by some Departments to respond to Members’ parliamentary questions and correspondence. We also discussed the failure of some Departments to attend Select Committee meetings, and the leaking of information to the media before it is announced to Parliament.

I was ably assisted by the excellent staff in the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, but I particularly thank Katie Hayman-Joyce, who had to listen to the same speech at least 15 times—[Hon. Members: “What about us?”] You are paid to listen to me. Will the Leader of the House tell me whether the report that was going to be prepared and issued to every Department reminding them of best practice is still going to be issued, and if so, when?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, because it affords me the opportunity to pay tribute to him. I had the benefit of his wisdom for only a few weeks, but he was of huge service to former Leaders of the House. The work that he did over the summer, on behalf of Members of this House, with every single Department to identify why they are not delivering what we need was invaluable, and it will not be wasted. We will be bringing that forward and he will get full credit for it, because it is not something that I have done. I once again thank him for everything that he has helped to make happen, particularly during the very sad events of our loss of Her late Majesty the Queen.

It was pleasing to hear the Prime Minister commit to ending section 21 notices, but when can we expect that to come fully into action? One of my constituents emailed me this morning. She has just been served with a section 21, meaning that her young family will go through the pain of being evicted from their property two weeks before Christmas, and she has a four-month-old baby. The family wanted a two-year lease so they could have security and raise their family. Will the Leader of the House urgently find time for us to discuss the issue and make sure the Bill is brought forward in this parliamentary session?

I am sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituency case, and I hope that in raising it on the Floor of the House, she will help to galvanise local services and support for that young family. I will raise with the relevant Department the issues she mentions, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will want these measures to be brought forward swiftly.

Now then, I thought things were bad in Ashfield when I was told by residents that one of the district councillors had gone to live in Wales, over 100 miles away, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith) has outdone me. He tells me that one of his lazy Labour councillors has been signed off sick until the next district council elections and has also emigrated to Australia. Local people need local representation, so does the Leader of the House agree that district councillors should not live “Home and Away”? Their constituents expect them to be good “Neighbours”, because everybody needs good neighbours.

I thank my hon. Friend for the amusing but serious point that he raises. It is very important that councillors, in particular those drawing a salary and expenses for their work, are there with their communities—although, with my experience of living in a Labour-controlled council area, I often understand why people would want to move away.

The Climate Change Committee has said that before the Government lift the moratorium on fracking, they must conduct

“an in-depth independent review of the evidence”

of its climate impact. When will the Government do that review, and will it be followed by a statement in this House?

I am sure that the Department will update the House on developments with regard to our energy policy and fracking. Our policy is based on evidence, and several reassurances have been given by the Prime Minister and Departments that fracking will not proceed without local consent.

I join you, Mr Speaker, in paying tribute to my two good friends, David and James, whom we lost a year ago.

May we have a debate on the way that local health authorities sometimes pull the wool over the eyes of Ministers and perhaps even mislead them in their letters? On 6 September, I got a letter thanking me for supporting a brand-new 18-storey tower block hospital in the middle of Watford. I have spent 20 years opposing that, so I was chewing a wasp. May we have a debate on how we can have honesty from Department of Health and Social Care officials and from trusts, so that Ministers can inform us in this House of the facts and not what the Department wants us to hear?

My right hon. Friend raises a serious point that I will raise on his behalf with both the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care. May I also associate myself with the remarks that he made about our late colleague James Brokenshire?

Numerous residents have contacted me this week about fireworks being set off at all hours of the night. As we come closer to bonfire night, will the Leader of the House allow a debate in Government time on antisocial behaviour and the use of fireworks, so that we can consider what we can do to strengthen legislation?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising the topic. I think it would make for a timely debate, and she will know how to go about securing one. There is already a comprehensive regulatory framework in place for fireworks, and we are determined to tackle all forms of antisocial behaviour, including fireworks being used as weapons. I will raise her concerns with my colleagues at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Home Office.

Will the Leader of the House urge the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to come to the House next week and make a statement about the appalling ecological disaster that has blighted the east coast north and south of the Tees bay, with massive numbers of dead crustaceans washed up on our beaches? DEFRA says that it is naturally occurring algal bloom, but there is not a scientist or marine biologist worth their sea salt who buys any of that. We need an independent analysis and report that our communities can rely on. While she is at it, will she persuade the Tory Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, to stop pumping out false and misleading information about the quantity and content of capital industrial dredgings from the River Tees being dumped at sea?

I am very sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman’s first point; no doubt that will be having an economic impact on his local area, so I will raise it with the Department and ask it to get in touch with his office. I think the local Mayor is doing a fantastic job. I know that he has the confidence of the business community and his constituents, which is why he keeps doing so well at the ballot box.

I am sure my right hon. Friend has seen widely circulated reports about the arrest of 24 men for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Bradford. This follows a series of scandals, in Rotherham, Rochdale and other places, that have a common theme: a cultural problem of men thinking it is okay to groom young girls for the abuse of sex. It is clear we have a cultural problem, so may we have an urgent debate in Government time on how we will combat that and, in particular, how we will protect young girls who are in the care of local authorities?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this appalling issue. I am sure all Members of this House would have been appalled to read some of the details of these cases involving very young girls having to go through the ordeal of not only sexual assault and rape, but it being done repeatedly, by multiple men. It is appalling. I encourage him to apply for a debate in the usual way, but I will also write to the Home Secretary and urge her to update the House on what more can be done to tackle this appalling situation.

This is National Work Life Week, and the Business Disability Forum recommends that all businesses should embed this ethos into their organisations, to reduce stress-related absences, enhance employee wellbeing and improve workforce inclusion. May we have a debate in Government time on the benefits of work-life balance and the principle of work-life balance in its entirety?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important issue, in a timely week. She will know that the Government have focused very much on occupational health, on halving the disability employment gap and on ensuring that the welfare state and disability benefits, in particular, are very much more focused on mental health issues. So much of this is about prevention and wellbeing, and learning the lessons that we have learnt throughout the pandemic. I thank her for raising these issues and I will raise them with the Department of Health and Social Care.

On Tuesday evening, I had the huge privilege of being at Cornwall Airport Newquay for the arrival of Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl, the Boeing 747 converted for satellite launch. That is a major step forward towards fulfilling our ambition of launching the first satellites from UK soil—indeed, from European soil—later this year. This is a huge step forward in fulfilling our dream and it has the great opportunity to attract investment, economic growth and jobs of the future to Cornwall. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating all those involved in making this dream a reality? May we have a statement on the Government’s ambitions and plans to support the UK space industry in the future?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue and I join him in congratulating everyone who made that happen. I also thank him because he has been a doughty champion for this incredible growth sector in his county. We have a thriving sector, which is globally respected; about 47,000 jobs have been created in recent years to support it. Clearly, it is going to account for a growing number of exports as well. It is very exciting and I will certainly encourage the relevant Secretary of State to come to update the House.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Work and Pensions Secretary to make a statement on what the Department is doing to tackle fraud and error in universal credit? I have seen what purports to be an internal DWP staff question and answer sheet listing what it describes as “workable” universal credit offences and advising staff that everything else should be “parked”. I know she will agree that our confidence in the social security system and the right of people to receive the support to which they are entitled depends on its being immune to fraud and error.

I will happily raise the issues the hon. Lady brings to the House’s attention with the Work and Pensions Secretary. The hon. Lady is right to say that the systems need to have integrity. Although there will always be some elements of fraud, especially at moments when people are trying to get money out the door in crisis situations, we always need to be wary about that. I know that this issue is taken very seriously by the new Secretary of State.

I recently attended a meeting organised by a group in my constituency, the Knaresborough Anglers, that brought together parties interested in the water quality of the River Nidd. They are seeking bathing water status for parts of the river and I support their bid. The overwhelming majority of areas with designated bathing water status are coastal or lakes, with very few rivers included—in fact, I think the only river with such status may be in my native Ilkley—so may we have a debate on how we can establish more high-quality designated bathing areas in our rivers?

The River Nidd sounds absolutely delightful. I will certainly raise with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the issues that my hon. Friend has raised. I wish him good luck with that bid; if he is backing it, I think it will be successful, because he has that reputation. If successful, the bid will no doubt bring economic benefit to the area, so I will certainly raise those issues. My hon. Friend will know very well how to apply for a debate in the usual way.

First, I thank the Leader of the House for and welcome her suggestion of a debate on the issues in Scotland; many of us who live in Scotland would relish the opportunity to question the SNP on its record—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

Secondly, we are currently in the midst of the airspace-management exercise and reshuffling, which is affecting every airport in the country. It is causing uncertainty for a great many constituents in my constituency and, I recognise, for those in the constituencies around Edinburgh West. Would it be possible to have a debate in the House on the progress of the airspace-management realignment and how it is affecting air transport as the sector tries to recover from the pandemic?

We have just had Transport questions so it might be a little while before the hon. Lady can raise the matter with the Secretary of State in that way. I will write to the Secretary of State on the hon. Lady’s behalf and encourage the provision of clarity, so that people can be assured about what the future will look like. The hon. Lady will know that she can apply for a debate in the usual way.

Like me, my right hon. Friend represents a fabulous coastal constituency. So many communities around our coast face significant challenges. Remote Ilfracombe in my North Devon patch has seen a hotel close its doors and make 30 people redundant to become an asylum dispersal centre—before the Home Office has even confirmed that it will use it. This has created huge concern in a community that already has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than most of the county, and that has little public transport and few health facilities. This is not nimbyism—we are happy to help—but there are potentially more suitable locations nearer to the services that will be needed.

I remain concerned that along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall we increasingly have asylum seekers in hotels, key workers living in holiday parks and houses stood empty for more than half the year as second homes or holiday lets. Will my right hon. Friend consider the case for a coastal communities Minister, to begin to tackle our coastal housing needs and properly level up coastal communities?

I am sorry to hear about that situation. My hon. Friend is a fierce campaigner for bringing economic benefit to her local area and is very focused on quality of life for her constituents. The Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) has that responsibility; I would be happy to facilitate a meeting between her and my hon. Friend. I ask my hon. Friend to keep me posted on progress in the matters she has raised.

May we have a debate about the creation of an Ofsted-style inspectorate for Government Departments? Having spoken to colleagues from throughout the House, I have no doubt that were the Home Office to be inspected in such a way it would be found to be failing. I have been dealing with the Home Office recently in respect of a student who is trying to come to this country to study. They have their visa, everything is fine with the application and all has been done in time, but Home Office incompetence means the student is now probably not going to be able to start their course. Cardiff Metropolitan University tells me that it is not an isolated incident. Instead of doing things for dog-whistle purposes, such as reclassifying modern slavery as illegal immigration, as the Home Office is doing today, why does it not just get on with the job of running a modern and efficient immigration and visa system?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing that work. He is looking at the performance of Departments on these very important basic functions as we come out of the covid pandemic and making sure that people are being trained properly. That work is in hand and I will let the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster know about the hon. Gentleman’s particular interests in that.

On the reclassification of modern slavery, this Government have done more than any other in history to tackle the scourge of modern slavery not just in the UK, but through the UN. The reason for that reclassification is that the systems that are in place are being abused. We need to ensure that the resource, as the hon. Gentleman points out, is targeted at those who need the help, not at those who are trying to abuse the system.

Last year, in England and Wales, 5,583 people tragically took their own lives. Each death was a tragedy for their family, their friends and their community. Suicide rates in England are as high now as they were 20 years ago. Can we have a debate on how the Government can work with charities such as the Samaritans, which I met at the party conference last week, and other local organisations to ensure that we reach the lowest ever recorded suicide rates to benefit us all?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue. I thank, too, all colleagues who, over the past week, have been sharing their own personal stories on this or stories of constituents’ families who have lost a loved one through suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer in this country of young men, which is an absolute tragedy. We must do all we can to rectify that situation. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has heard what my hon. Friend has said today.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I know that you and the Leader of the House are passionate about women’s rights, particularly women’s rights at work. I wonder whether the Leader of the House can give me some advice on this—genuine advice. I have always been a great supporter of public service broadcasting. A man was convicted and imprisoned last week for trolling BBC staff for years. One of them was Liz Green, a constituent of mine in Huddersfield, who is so popular and dear to our hearts and is known by everyone. She and other women were trolled unmercifully. Their lives were ruined and disrupted, and the BBC gave them no support—no help at all. Is it not time to bring the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to this Chamber to discuss the matter? I am a passionate supporter of public broadcasting and what these women have suffered from the BBC is unacceptable.

I shall try to keep the answers timely as well, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this incredibly serious matter. I hope that all employers would have that duty of care and look after people. I have to say to all Members of this House that we have a responsibility, too, in how we conduct ourselves on social media. When we see colleagues suffering similar abuse, even if they are on the opposite side of the House, we have a duty to step in and ask that that desists.

Will the Leader of the House arrange an urgent debate in Government time on the Government’s ambitious infrastructure plans, which include the controversial Lower Thames Crossing? That would give me an opportunity to tell the Secretary of State about the impact that the project will have, the latest traffic modelling and its impact, the development consent order process, and the undervaluing of my constituents’ properties.

I thank my hon. Friend for raising those issues. He will know that this new Administration will want to have a greater focus on building the right infrastructure. I encourage him to apply for a debate in the usual way, and I will make sure that a number of Departments hear what he has had to say today.

The funeral was held yesterday for Ian Hamilton KC, who passed away at the age of 97 following a long and distinguished career as an advocate. Early-day motion 440 states:

[That this House mourns the passing of Ian Hamilton, KC, who has passed away at the age of 97; salutes his long and distinguished career as a member of the Faculty of Advocates and as one of Scotland pre-eminent criminal lawyers; notes his upbringing in Paisley as a the son of a tailor who went on to attend the John Neilson Institution in the town, before being called up for National Service and then to study at the University of Glasgow; celebrates his role in the liberation of the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, on Christmas Eve 1950; welcomes his landmark achievement alongside Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart in securing the Stone and returning it to Scotland following its theft by Edward I of England in 1296; notes the work undertaken by monumental mason Bertie Gray of Glasgow following the Stone’s liberation in making repairs to the Stone and making a number of copies of the Stone; acknowledges the return of a stone to Arbroath Abbey on 11th April 1951 from whence it was again taken from Scotland and installed in Westminster Abbey; celebrates Ian Hamilton’s long service in campaigning for Scottish independence and the causes and ideals that were fundamental to him as a human being; and notes that while he will not see Scottish independence that the work he and many others have done over the decades have brought that achievement closer than ever.]

Ian will be remembered for his campaigning for Scottish independence and in particular for leading a team who, on Christmas Eve 1950, liberated the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. As a fitting tribute, considering how much this Government are trying to frustrate democracy through their arguments in the Supreme Court, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the UK and whether this Union is indeed voluntary for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

First, I join the hon. Gentleman in his sentiments in remembering the life of someone who was, I assume, his constituent as well as someone he greatly admired. I would, though, point out that it is people on the Government side of the House who have honoured the results of two referendums.

Could we please have a debate in Government time on the importance of doctors’ surgeries for smaller, more rural communities? With Wheldrake surgery in my constituency having been closed now for a prolonged period and Stockton on the Forest surgery’s reducing its opening hours to just two mornings a week, there is real concern that rural communities are not getting the access to primary care that they desperately need.

I am sorry to hear about the situation in my hon. Friend’s constituency and thank him for raising it today; I will flag it with the Department of Health and Social Care. Clearly, the NHS is under great pressure because of backlogs from the pandemic. Patient education is important, and the whole local health team has a responsibility and can help people, but a large part of that is time with a general practitioner, and we need to ensure that those services are accessible by the local population.

We have just had an urgent question on the abusive treatment of patients at a mental health in-patient unit. Since the scandal of Winterbourne View 11 years ago, we have had a series of reviews, targets and broken promises from the Government. What is so appalling is that, despite these abuses having been known about for more than a decade, nothing has changed to stop them happening. I understand that the Leader of the House cares about this issue and has had meetings with Ministers about it in the past, so can we now have a debate in Government time on how we might work finally to end the abuse, particularly for the 2,000 autistic people and people with learning disabilities who should be living in homes, not hospitals?

As the hon. Lady kindly says, I am personally very concerned about that issue—I know that all Members across the House are. It would be an excellent topic for a debate. In addition to the reports that Sir Stephen Bubb has produced on the issue, he has produced a plan of social capital available to enable the transition into more appropriate care services. I hope all hon. Members will agree—I hear my colleague on the Front Bench, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland) agreeing—that this issue must be resolved.

At the weekend, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, made clear that she detests Conservative voters, who make up one in four people across Scotland. Does the Leader of the House agree that it would be worth while to hold a debate on the use of that kind of divisive and dangerous language in politics?

I have always thought that the people of the United Kingdom are kind, positive and tolerant. We stand up to bullies. We have lively political debate and different views, and that makes us stronger as a nation. I can tell my hon. Friend that, happily, in my experience, political movements based on hatred and division always fail as a consequence, because the British people are better than that. However, organisations that promote such hatred and dissent should be scrutinised.

One in five households with children are struggling with food insecurity, which means that families are skipping meals or going hungry because they simply cannot afford to buy food. The Government’s own adviser, a former health Minister and now the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) all agree that every child on universal credit should be eligible for a free school meal. Now that the Schools Bill appears to have been buried in the other place, will the Leader of the House provide Government time for a debate and, crucially, a vote on extending free school meals so that no child goes hungry at school?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue. The Government’s record has been to extend free school meals, and in times of particular challenge and hardship that has been further enhanced. I will make sure that both the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education hear what she has said and encourage them to update her.

As a number of colleagues are sceptical about some of the Government’s net zero policies and proposals, and have read the Fair Fuel and Centre for Economics and Business Research report published on Tuesday and realised that we will not replace 35 million-plus internal combustion engine vehicles with electric ones by 2030 or even 2050, will my right hon. Friend allow a debate on the future of fossil fuels and the potential benefits for my constituents and the nation’s economy of synthetic fuel alternatives?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue. We are committed to net zero and the legally binding targets, but the Prime Minister has been clear that that cannot be done at the expense of business and growth, or of energy security. I am sure that he will hear much more about our plans to reach net zero while taking those issues into account in a way that has not been done before. I encourage him to apply for a debate on the matter.

This autumn marks four years since the coming into effect of the protect the protectors Act, which sought to protect emergency workers from assault. In recent years, a small minority has increasingly felt that bonfire night means that laws do not apply and engaged in antisocial and violent behaviour. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that colleagues can bring their experiences to the Chamber and discuss all the ways in which we can make sure that our communities and emergency service workers are protected ahead of this year’s bonfire night?

I thank the hon. Lady for the role that she played in bringing in that Act. She will know that we have also increased sentences for people who commit such offences. Earlier my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) raised a similar issue, and I encourage the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend to get together and apply for a debate in the usual way. I shall make sure that the Home Office has heard what the hon. Lady has said.

May we have an urgent debate in Government time on green and sustainable growth, in which we can demonstrate that we are the best country in the G7 at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while producing significant growth, and that we really understand the power of both nature-based solutions and first-mover advantage in the new green clean industries of the future?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue. We do have an incredible track record on this, and we want to improve on it and share our expertise with other nations. In addition to the Government’s work, a plethora of organisations that are focused on nature, the environment and our national heritage are helping in that respect.

Last night in Dundee, the Local Government Information Unit hosted the Scottish local government awards, which celebrate and recognise the huge efforts put in by local councillors across the country. In a great turn of fate, Midlothian’s own depute provost, Connor McManus, was given the award for young councillor of the year. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Connor and the other award recipients last night, and may we have a debate in Government time to recognise the importance of local democracy?

I thank the hon. Gentleman and I am happy to join him in congratulating Connor and all the other winners. The hon. Gentleman will know that Democracy Week is not far away, and we shall be just as focused on local democracy during that time as we are on democracy in the House.

Residents in the Talbot and Brunswick area of Blackpool have been plagued by antisocial behaviour in recent weeks, with hundreds of different crimes being committed by a gang of teenagers. Its ringleader is an 11-year-old boy who has been responsible for more than 80 different offences, including assaulting a female police officer. Sadly the efforts of Lancashire police to bring him to justice have been compromised by Blackpool Council’s children’s directorate, which refuses to criminalise teenagers. May we have a debate on antisocial behaviour, the misery it causes to communities and whether the police have the appropriate powers to tackle the problems?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, and I am so sorry that his community are suffering from this antisocial behaviour and criminal activity. He will know that it takes a team of people to redress this situation—it is about education, it is about the local authority and it is about a good policing approach. This will be an excellent topic for a debate, and I encourage him to apply for one in the usual way.

Some 15,626 families in my constituency are dependent on means-tested benefits. Failing to uprate benefits in line with prices may save the Government £3 million, but it will put those families in Brent North and millions like them across the country into deep debt and despair. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time on benefits uprating and on poverty this winter?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important issue. I encourage all Members to write to the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury on such matters and make their views known. Clearly there is a timetable for the uprating announcement, and we must wait for that, but I point him to our record in government, which is to support the most vulnerable and to create a modern welfare system that protects those people.

Last week, 16-year-old Niamh came to see me about negative behaviour that she and her friends have been getting from boys and men, including rape jokes, which are dismissed by the adults around them as “boys will be boys.” She wants to campaign on this, and I will help her, but it seems pretty obvious that if boys are taught to respect girls, they will not grow up to be men who disrespect women. Can we have a debate on how we change attitudes in this area, not just our laws?

I know that my hon. Friend is very concerned about this and has done a huge amount of work on education and understands its importance. A debate is an excellent idea, and I encourage him to apply for one in the usual way. That is a way of not only raising the issue but sharing good practice and what works.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The Prime Minister indicated yesterday that there would be no cuts to public spending, which will be welcomed by the 150,000 civil servants currently balloting for strike action. Can we have a debate in Government time on how we value public servants and ensure that there are no compulsory redundancies, no cuts to redundancy payouts and decent wages for those who keep this country’s economic wheels turning?

We had a wonderful example earlier from my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), the former Deputy Leader of the House, appreciating the civil servants he worked for; I think we all do, whether we are in government or sat on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Gentleman will know that more information about the Government’s economic programme will be brought forward on 31 October, but I encourage Members who have representations to make to write to the Treasury.

Many of us know that noise nuisance can be a real blight to our constituents, especially when it is one of those local hums that plague the people who hear it. May I put on the record my thanks to Alistair Somerville, president of the Institute of Acoustics, and council member Peter Rogers, who have been helping to investigate the “Haslington hum” in my constituency?

I thank my hon. Friend for placing that on record. This is incredibly important work. I understand that the John Connell awards will be held next week in the Terrace Pavilion. Those awards support and recognise innovative ideas that have made a positive impact to reduce excessive noise, which is often a huge concern for our constituents.

Given that the Prime Minister has promised to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, can we have a debate in Government time on the component parts of Northern Powerhouse Rail, in particular the inclusion of the Leamside line, 21 miles of track which would bring huge opportunity to the north-east?

This is a hugely complex project with many parts, and the sequencing of each of them will be of huge interest to the hon. Lady and her constituents. I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport has heard what the hon. Lady said, and I encourage her to apply for a debate in the usual way.

We are very blessed in this nation to have world-class museums. They are museums of the world, and the world comes to them. One of the bulwarks they have against constant claims of restitution is both the British Museum Act 1963 and the National Heritage Act 1983, and I am aware that there will be a debate in the other place about changes to the 1983 Act. Can I ask the Leader of the House whether we can have a debate in this place so that Members have an opportunity to express their support for that legislation? Otherwise, those institutions risk facing a barrage of claims for restitution, some of which may be encouraged by virtue signalling. I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that if we allow this Pandora’s box to open, we will regret it for generations to come as we see such artefacts being removed to countries where they may be less safe.

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue, and there were many nods around the Chamber when he was speaking. I am aware that my noble Friend Lord Vaizey has a debate on this matter in the House of Lords, but I can tell my right hon. Friend that revisiting the National Heritage Act is not a priority for this Government.

Scotland is a nation of animal lovers, and constituents in Glasgow North want to see the highest standards of animal welfare and nature protection enforced across these islands. There is growing concern about the Government’s intentions when it comes to improving such protections, so can the Leader of the House tell us when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will be brought back to this House for its Report stage?

Future business will be announced in the usual way, but I know that the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is deeply concerned by these issues and wants to make good progress on them. I would just reassure the hon. Gentleman by asking him to look at our track record on a whole raft of issues on improving animal welfare not only in the UK, but also around the world.

As my right hon. Friend may be aware, I have long been a proponent of comparable and interoperable data in the NHS across the United Kingdom. The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill has the potential to bring this about, which could be very important for north Wales, so will she confirm when the Bill will return to the House?

Business will be announced in the usual way, but it is incredibly important that we are able to compare statistics, particularly between one part of the UK and another. For example—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is sitting on the Front Bench—I understand that in England one in 20 people are waiting more than a year for treatment, and in Wales the figure is one in four, and I think greater scrutiny of such comparisons should be encouraged.

I of course welcome the Leader of the House to her place. Just 80,000 Conservative party members put the Prime Minister and her dangerous ideas into government, so can we be given the opportunity to have a debate on how we can further improve our democracy and democratic processes, and how the public can have a real say in securing a general election when it is clear that the Government have lost the confidence of the public, as is clearly the case with this one?

The democratic system under which we operate elects a team, and this team on the Government side of the House are pro-growth, pro-better public services and pro-getting our constituents through the cost of living issues they currently face. It seems to be successful, as we are approaching at the next election a potential fifth term in office. Teamwork is good, and I would commend it to the hon. Gentleman.

The Leader of the House may be aware of my Non-Disclosure Agreements Bill, which is making its way through the House. It came about as the result of the harrowing stories of students at Oxford University who had not only been subject to sexual assault, but then felt forced to sign such clauses with their colleges. The thing is that NDAs are not just an issue for universities; they are happening in businesses, and they are even happening in our political parties and in Parliament. Would she consider helping me to have a meeting with the Home Secretary, who I see is in her place on the Treasury Bench? I had very constructive conversations with the former Home Secretary on this, and I would be extremely grateful for meetings with the new Ministers so that we do not lose the progress we have made on this incredibly important issue.

The Home Secretary’s presence might spare me the need to write a letter, but I shall write one anyway. I thank the hon. Lady for the important work she is doing in this very serious area and I will ensure that those discussions take place.

Further to the question raised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) at Transport questions on the progress of the Insolvency Service actions against the directors of P&O for the sacking of 800 workers, the Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), responded that that is a matter for the Insolvency Service. I understand that it is not the responsibility of the Department for Transport to monitor these prosecutions, but this is a matter of great public interest. Those sackings were unlawful and immoral, and the public want to know where the Insolvency Service is up to in its actions against those responsible. Will the responsible Department make a statement?

I shall pinpoint exactly where this sits in Government and write to those responsible to ensure that they have heard the hon. Gentleman’s request. When the issue was at the forefront of the media agenda, every Member of this House was appalled by those practices, so I will ensure that the relevant Minister hears the hon. Gentleman’s question and gets in touch with him.

Many of us in this House will realise that when two elements of any partnership find themselves in court, that partnership is ultimately doomed. So it is with the United Kingdom, with Scotland debating its future in the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, I am certain that the Leader of the House will be wedded to the misnomer that this is a union of equals. If that is the case, may we have a debate in Government time about how one of those equals can dictate terms about the future of the other equal without their say-so? How on earth does that work?

I will not seek to educate the hon. Gentleman about the inaccuracies that he has just spouted on the Floor of the House. The Government are not the party that is not adhering to the democratic mandate of the people of this country and of the people of Scotland. It is the hon. Gentleman’s party that is doing that.

Raising benefits in line with inflation “makes sense”—powerful words with which I am sure everyone will agree. They were, of course, the words of the Leader of the House at the Conservative party conference. Does she still stand by those words and, if so, will the Government be following suit?

The hon. Gentleman will be more familiar than most with what my party has done to improve the welfare system. We are the party that has introduced the triple lock and ensured that we have a modern welfare system, and the amount of benefits going to particular groups—we mentioned those with mental health issues earlier—is vastly improved from when we took office. I point him to our record, with which he will be very familiar, because he helped us deliver some of it. He should wait for 31 October.

A constituent contacted me about the high income child benefit charge. Because he now earns more than £50,000 a year, he is liable to start paying that charge. He is not trying to get more money for himself, but he has contacted me because he sees how profoundly unfair the system is at the moment because it is based on one person earning over £50,000 triggering the charge. That means that a household where a single parent earns more than £50,000 pays the charge, but a household where two people earn £50,000 each, making a combined income of £100,000, gets the full child benefit payments. Will the Government provide a statement about a review into how this system operates? Can payments be calculated on the basis of joint household income, rather than one person’s income triggering the charge? That could even be done on a revenue-neutral basis, covering a black hole in the Government’s finances.

I will certainly write to the Department with the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. Of course, the Scottish Government will also have powers relating to welfare if they wish to do anything in the meantime.

Over 60,000 kidney patients currently receive home dialysis. Countless other individuals are using stairlifts, oxygen tanks, hoists and nebulisers—the list goes on. All require electricity. Without more financial support to help cover the cost of energy consumption, many will either have to return to hospital for treatment or face spiralling into debt just to cover the cost of their medical treatment. Can we have a debate in Government time to address the vital issue of more financial support for these patients?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important and timely issue. The Secretaries of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are aware of it and very much focused on it. We will want to give reassurance to people in those circumstances as swiftly as possible. I will write to all three Departments on her behalf to raise the matter.

As far as I can see, Shropshire has been plagued by rogue developers who build small numbers of homes with shared ownership of communal spaces. When the developer sells the last house on the development, it liquidates its company before critical infrastructure such as roads and sewage pumps are complete. Shropshire Council does not as a matter of course take a financial bond that would secure the section 104 and 106 agreements that would allow that infrastructure to be completed. May we have a debate in Government time to consider making it mandatory for councils to secure that financial bond so that homeowners are not left picking up the pieces when their developer leaves them in the lurch?

I thank the hon. Lady for that suggestion. I shall write to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up to ensure that he has heard her words and encourage him to get in touch with her office.

Every seven minutes, a household in the private rented sector is given a section 21 notice—commonly known as a no-fault eviction—which is having a huge impact on our communities. Following the Prime Minister’s response yesterday to the first question at Prime Minister’s questions, will the Leader of the House impress on the Levelling Up Secretary the need to come to the House as soon as possible—perhaps next week, which is Renters’ Rights Awareness Week—to lay out the timing for the publication of a Bill? Let us get on with it so that we can protect more households.

Government business will be announced in the usual way, but I will ensure that the Secretary of State has heard the hon. Lady’s concerns and those of other hon. Members who have raised the matter today.

Following the mini Budget, the Chancellor invited me to write to him about the family-owned business in my constituency, Equi’s Ice Cream, and its exclusion from the energy support scheme. He promised a “timely” reply. Will the Leader of the House encourage her colleague to respond and demonstrate the Government’s commitment to small businesses?

Yesterday, some 1,000 people joined the “stop Hazara genocide” solidarity march outside Westminster, which was organised following the attack on the Kaaj education centre in Kabul that killed 53 people. That attack happened just one week after the publication of the Hazara inquiry report on the risk of genocide in Afghanistan. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on the “stop Hazara genocide” campaign and on what conclusions His Majesty’s Government have made from the report’s findings?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. I shall certainly write to the Foreign Secretary to ask him whether he will update the House on that.