The business for the week commencing 19 June will include:
Monday 19 June—Motion relating to the fifth report from the Committee of Privileges, followed by a general debate on the UK tech industry following London Tech Week.
Tuesday 20 June—Remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.
Wednesday 21 June—Consideration of Lords message to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill; followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill; followed by Opposition half day (17th allotted day, part one)—a debate in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.
Thursday 22 June—General debate on the infected blood inquiry, followed by a debate on a motion on the BBC’s proposals for the future of local radio. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 23 June—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 26 June includes:
Monday 26 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message to the National Security Bill.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.
Boris Johnson lied. He lied to MPs, he lied to the people of this country, and he lied to nurses, doctors, care workers, bus drivers—everyone who was putting their own life at risk during the pandemic. Why does this matter? Because people sacrificed so much, and they deserved a Prime Minister who values truth and honour and leads by example. It turns out that they did not have one. As I read the report this morning—and I have— I thought of all those people, including constituents of mine, who could not say goodbye as loved ones lay dying because they stuck to the rules. When they hear these headlines, they will be forced to relive their own hurt and anger.
I thank the members of the Privileges Committee for the thoughtful and considered work that they have carried out over a year, under constant intimidation from the former Prime Minister and his friends. They did as we asked, diligently, and we should all be grateful. I am disappointed to hear that the attacks on that Committee—a Committee with a Conservative majority; a cross-party Committee, properly constituted—continue today, led by Mr Johnson. His behaviour is shocking, but not surprising. I was shadow Leader of the House two years ago when he tried to rip up the rules to save his friend Paterson. Hundreds of Tory MPs voted with him—including the current Leader of the House, I am afraid to say. As we do not know what the motion on Monday will say, I ask her now: can she assure us that there will be no similar attempt? Will she confirm that the Government will give the House the opportunity to approve and endorse the report in full?
This all brings into question the validity of Johnson’s resignation honours list, and the Prime Minister’s support for it. With a lawbreaker and a liar rewarding his cronies, will the Leader of the House call on the Prime Minister to show some leadership for once and cancel these dishonourable honours?
On the subject of the Prime Minister’s incredibly poor judgment, is he so out of touch that he thought it was right that taxpayers’ hard-earned money fund legal advice for Johnson’s lies to the public—a shameful waste of money, especially during a Tory cost of living crisis? This was a mess of his making. Does the Leader of the House think that was a good use of public money? Will the Prime Minister now demand that Boris Johnson pays back every penny? We will return to this topic on Monday in full, when I will face the right hon. Lady again.
Turning to a related matter, a week really is a long time in politics, especially for the right hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries)—or is it the former Member? Who knows? She has had a busy week. Apparently barred from being a Baroness, she then declared her departure, then threw a tantrum on TalkTV, seemingly resiled on her resignation and launched a one-woman investigation into why she did not get a peerage. This could now drag on for months, like the guest who outstays their welcome when conversation has dried up. She has said she is off home, but she is taking forever to put on her coat, and you know what? She will stay for that last cup of tea after all. Is this really what people can expect from Tory MPs?
Could the Leader of the House please clarify whether her colleague is resigning or not? Does she agree that the good people of Mid Bedfordshire deserve proper representation from their MP, as do the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and of Selby and Ainsty, and people up and down the country who cannot stomach a moment more of this Tory soap opera, with a Prime Minister too busy failing to get a grip on the sleaze and scandal engulfing his own party to focus on the cost of living, crime, or NHS waiting lists? With so much to do, he cannot even fill a full parliamentary day. What is the point of him? He is out of touch, out of ideas and unable to govern. He is breaking his promises and letting people down. It is time that he showed some actual leadership and let the people have their say, and called a general election.
First, I associate myself with the remarks and the tributes paid in this House to the victims of the Nottingham attack and their brave families and friends, and also to all those who perished in the Grenfell fire six years ago and those who loved them. This week, we also commemorate the liberation of the Falkland Islands, which is of particular importance to many of the families that it is my privilege to represent.
The hon. Lady raises the issue of the hour. It is worth reminding the House that the Privileges Committee is there to defend this House, our rights and our privileges. The Committee and the investigation it carried out was set up unanimously by this House. We asked it to do this work. The membership of the Committee was established unanimously by this House and, as many Members have pointed out, it had a Conservative majority on it. I put on record my thanks to the Committee.
Yes, the members of that Committee were doing their duty. My advice to all hon. and right hon. Members, having had the Committee carry out the work we asked it to do, is to read the report. Members should make their own judgments about it and take the task that it is our privilege to do seriously and soberly. Members should use their own judgment on that. I can confirm that the motion before us will be votable and amendable, and it is House business, so I am expecting a free vote.
The hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) reminds us of a previous case, and I know these are difficult matters for the House. We have to look at the evidence and the report, but we are talking about people who are friends and colleagues. The task we face on Monday will be a painful process and a sad process for all of us, but we all must do what we think is right, and others must leave us alone to do so. I concur with the hon. Lady.
The hon. Lady has understandably focused on wrongs and gongs, if I may say so, but she will know that this Government have not been distracted from our duties. She mentions the cost of living. I know how stressful, frightening and exhausting that living from hand to mouth can be, and we are determined to support families and businesses through these tough and volatile times. Global economic conditions have been made worse by the actions of those who would do us harm. The latest atrocity in Ukraine will have knock-on effects globally. As a country, we must, and we will, weather this storm. That is why we are supporting households on average to the tune of £3,300. It is why we have frozen fuel duty for the 13th consecutive year. It is why we have the triple lock and the largest ever increase to the national living wage. It is why we have doubled the personal allowance. It is why we are capping bus fares and why we have introduced tax-free childcare, supporting 2 million families, and are expanding that offer further still.
The public need a plan from their Government to grow the economy, to halve inflation and to reduce debt. Those are their priorities, and that is why they are our Prime Minister’s priorities, too. The hon. Lady will know that we are a resilient nation. We have had the fastest cumulative growth in the G7 for the past two years. The International Monetary Fund has revised its forecasts up, and we have avoided a technical recession that many said was inescapable. This week, we learned that employment is higher than pre-pandemic levels. We have 4 million people into work, half of whom are women. The percentage of women in high-skilled jobs is up 38.5% since the hon. Lady’s party was in power.
In tough times, this country does not need doom-mongers and hand-wringers; it needs fighters, grafters and hope-bringers. It needs a Government who will back families, workers and wealth creators and all who invest in every sense in our nation. That is what we are focused on, including, most notably during London Tech Week, the growth sector of artificial intelligence. In contrast, we know what Labour’s AI policy is: anti-investment, anti-infrastructure, anti-innovation and anti-individuals.
In 13 years of Labour Government, they managed to electrify just 60 miles of rail track. Their top 10 worst IT failures cost half the schools budget. They had no free childcare for under-threes, they gifted us the fuel duty escalator and they thought it an acceptable state of affairs that someone in a second job got to keep only 2p for every additional pound they earned. No Labour Government have ever left office with more people in work than when they came to power. AI is not a danger to jobs and wages, but a Labour Government certainly are.
I was pleased earlier this week to be re-elected as co-chairman of the all-party group on the holocaust memorial and education centre. I understand that the Standing Orders Committee has considered the progress of the Holocaust Memorial Bill, which will bring both the much-needed and expected education centre and the memorial to fruition. Can my right hon. Friend provide a progress report on that Bill, but also on the long-promised boycotts, divestment and sanctions Bill that the Government have promised to bring forward?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his re-election to that important role. On the first Bill he mentions, he knows how important this is to the Government and to many people, and it is also important that we bring these things forward in a timely way. He will know that the next stage is for the House of Lords Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee to meet on 19 June to consider the Standing Orders that apply, and I hope the Bill will continue to make good progress. The second Bill is also making good progress, alongside the Procurement Bill, as he will know, and I will announce further business in the usual way.
There is no shortage of things we can talk about this week. The UK still has the highest core inflation in the G7, with the continuing cost of living crisis and warnings of further rate rise misery for mortgage owners. There were some—putting it mildly—questionable choices on a former PM’s honours list, a scathing report out yesterday from the Scottish Government demonstrating exactly how this UK Government are attempting to impose direct rule on Scotland by stealth and, indeed, an utterly damning Privileges Committee report, just released, with its conclusions on that former PM’s behaviour, although we can of course expect that one to be very thoroughly debated on Monday. Our constituents, who suffered so much throughout the pandemic, deserve nothing less.
However, I want to focus on this occasion on something I am sure the Leader of the House will have been as horrified to hear about as I was. It is the report on Sky News that serving personnel at RAF bases in England are having to use food banks to feed their families. We all know that the Leader of the House has a real interest in defence matters—until her demotion by the previous Prime Minister, she was a Defence Minister herself—and next week is of course Armed Forces Week, with many events planned for this place, so it can only be a matter of profound shame for her that service personnel are having to go days without food to make sure their own children are fed. Living hand to mouth is frankly unimaginable at a time of war in Europe. How are her Government going to back those “grafters”, as she would put it? The Tories claim to be the party of defence, but with the continuing scandal of substandard personnel accommodation, endless Tory defence cuts and the billions wasted on defence procurement fiascos—and now personnel being forced to use food banks—is it not more than time for a serious debate on the numerous Tory defence failures? Does she agree, and would she support that?
Once again, I ask the Leader of the House, with respect, not to reach for the inaccurate, out-of-date video script, written by her own army of special advisers, attacking the elected Government of Scotland. Business questions are about the conduct of her Government, and I would argue that this question is too serious for this now obvious avoidance technique. Would she be so helpful as to answer those questions?
Let me first say that I always answer the hon. Lady’s questions. Indeed, I am going to lavish praise on the Scottish Government this week, because their First Minister has achieved a landmark achievement —credit where credit is due—in that he has the honour of being the first SNP First Minister in its entire history not to have been arrested, which is quite an achievement.
I shall not go over what I previously said to the shadow Leader of the House on the economy and on the Privileges Committee, but let me be specific about the points the hon. Lady raises. She is right that as Defence Secretary, I—in my 85 days in office—gave all of our armed forces a pay rise, and made sure that no one who ever serves in our armed forces will earn less than the national living wage. I think that is an important principle. The hon. Lady will know that we care deeply about the welfare of our armed forces, and indeed about their financial resilience. That is why this Government are compensating armed forces personnel in Scotland for the additional tax that they have to pay under the Scottish Government. We think that is an important point.
The hon. Lady, again—this is a regular theme—criticises the UK Government for our obligations under the law, our overreach on devolution, as she sees it, and our democratic obligations. I gently point out that she might have more credibility on such matters if the Scottish Government had not been found repeatedly to have been in breach of the Scotland Act 1998. Ministers have been touring the world, at Scottish taxpayers’ expense, undermining our Union, undermining our armed forces and the nuclear deterrent, and undermining referendums and democracy. In doing so, they are undermining the Scottish Government’s credibility, and the arguments they are trying to mount against us. I ask the hon. Lady to reflect on that.
Regretfully, the subject of dangerous dogs is salient again. Deep regrets born of the most tragic events.; just last month a 37-year-old man was killed in Greater Manchester; 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch was killed last year, and just before that, 10-year-old Jack Lis. They were all killed by so-called Bully dogs—the American XL Bully. We need an urgent statement from the Government, not to debate the matter, but simply to confirm that that bad breed, bred to kill, should be banned.
My right hon. Friend raises an incredibly important matter. Many people would be surprised to hear about the volume of such attacks that take place, and there has recently been a spate of them. That has been incredibly shocking, and is the result of owners not being able to control those animals. It is a serious matter, of which I know the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is aware. As the next questions to her Department are not until 6 July, I shall write on my right hon. Friend’s behalf and ensure that the Secretary of State has heard him today.
I thank the Leader of the House for writing to the Secretary of State for Education last week, on my behalf and on behalf of deaf children. I am grateful for that. I also thank her for announcing the Backbench business for next Thursday. The House will be aware that estimates-day debates will take place in early July, and the closing date for applications for those debates is next Monday at the close of business. We will then receive personal applications from Members on Tuesday afternoon at the end of the ordinary Backbench Business Committee.
Due to my work on the Education Committee, matters of educational interest are often brought to my attention, and I want to raise a matter that is of both educational and employment interest. Some 256 security staff employed by Bidvest Noonan at University College London have been told to reapply for their jobs. Only 216 jobs will be available, and all of those will be with hugely reduced pay and conditions, and with loss of pension rights. Many of those staff are ex-service personnel, and the lack of action by the Government on fire and rehire brings into question their commitment to the armed forces covenant for such employees, by not clamping down on those shoddy employment practices. May we have a statement to update the House on what the Government will do about those immoral fire and rehire proposals?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his ongoing work. I think the House has particularly welcomed the fact that we will have a debate on the proposals for the BBC, which is an issue that several hon. Members across the House have raised.
Fire and rehire was a theme of last week’s business questions. He will know that we have a code of conduct that is currently being consulted on. These matters are incredibly important, whether someone is a veteran or not, and we know what we expect good employer practice to look like. I am sorry to hear about the case in point and will bring it to the Secretary of State’s attention.
For years, residents of Thatcham, a town in my constituency, have faced delays at a local level crossing, which frequently gives them waiting times of up to 45 minutes morning and evening. For a long time, they have asked for a bridge to be constructed over the level crossing, but, for various reasons, that has not yet got off the ground. Will my right hon. Friend support me by asking the Transport Secretary to consider the construction of such a bridge? Will she permit a debate in Government time to discuss infrastructure in the south-east so that I can set out in more detail the huge problems that the level crossing causes?
I thank my hon. Friend and congratulate her on the vigour with which she is approaching her campaigning on this matter for her local residents. She will know that total public and private infrastructure investment is set to be about £600 billion over the next 5 years, and through the levelling-up fund we are investing just shy of a further £5 billion over the next four years, including on upgrades to local transport networks. The next Transport questions will not be until 13 July, so, although I encourage her to raise the matter there, I will also ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up have heard her campaign today.
Local councils work incredibly hard to support their communities. In the last decade, they have been under significant financial pressure, not least as we face the cost of living crisis. Will the Leader of the House therefore join me in congratulating everyone at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, including the leader, Sir Steve Houghton, the chief executive, Sarah Norman, and all the staff and councillors for their great achievement in being awarded council of the year by the Local Government Chronicle last week?
I am sure that the whole House will want to join the hon. Lady in that. Local government is the frontline of services to our communities. That is why, in addition to central Government funding that we provide directly through schemes, we give discretionary funding to local authorities through the household support fund, and of course many schemes were active during the pandemic. That is because local people are best placed to make decisions about where money should be directed and to pick up families who are falling through the cracks of national schemes. In addition to her council, we should thank all the people who work in local government day in, day out for all our communities.
People in Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable are absolutely fed up with groups of mainly youngsters who are riding on motorbikes or bicycles and stealing and intimidating, often late at night. On 1 June, a 14-year-old boy lost his life at 1.30 am riding a motorcycle. Children are now asking their parents why the police allow it to happen. What can we do to give the police more effective powers to prevent and deter these young people, and apprehend them while they are riding and cycling around?
I am sorry to hear about that situation, which will have a chilling effect on my hon. Friend’s community. I can very much see why that would be such an intimidating thing for many of his local residents. He will know that, in addition to the resources that we are giving the police, and the Prime Minister’s recent push on antisocial behaviour in particular, we are investing £560 million to ensure that every young person has access to regular clubs and activities as well as opportunities to take part in volunteer schemes and other things. Those constructive activities are part of the solution. However, I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that he is having. I shall ensure that the Home Secretary knows about his campaign and ask her to assist him.
When I was a teenager, my best friend had spina bifida, one of the congenital neural tube defects that cause serious lifelong disability, as well as resulting in babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and termination. The majority of those can be prevented by folic acid, but as the neural tube forms in the first four weeks when most women do not even know they are pregnant, food supplementation is vital. Some 80% of neural tube defects could be prevented with effective amounts of folic acid added to a broad range of foods, so why are the Government planning such a low dose and such a limited scheme that it will prevent only 20% of these tragic cases?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important point. She will know that I am neither the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, nor the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and it is to those Departments that she needs to direct that question. Health questions are on 11 July and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions are on 6 July, but I will certainly make sure that the Departments have heard her remarks today. I think that is how I can best serve her as Leader of the House.
The Arts Council England national average spend per head of population is £7.89, yet only £1.82 per head in Doncaster. That means Doncaster gets less than 25% of the national average. That funding imbalance is holding Doncaster back and depriving my constituents of their history and culture. May we have a debate on levelling up Arts Council funding for everyone, not just the big cities?
My hon. Friend’s request for a debate on this matter—a very good suggestion—is timely, because this week I had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who is mapping where Arts Council England and other organisations in receipt of public funds are actually putting that money. It is incredibly important to everyone’s lives. It raises aspiration, improves quality of life, develops people and, of course, it is a very important part of our economy. I can assure him that the Secretary of State is looking at that and he will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way.
The Government have been promising for five years now to ban the abusive psychological practice sometimes known as conversion therapy. As the human face of the Government and as a supporter of such legislation, can the Leader of the House tell us when the Government will fulfil their pledge to publish the legislation in draft in this Session and subject it to pre-legislative scrutiny?
These are appalling practices and they need to be dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Bill is due to be published very shortly. He will forgive me if I save the date for a future business announcement. We expect it to go to pre-legislative scrutiny to be ready for the fourth Session.
The Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill has been discussed in Committee, where I tabled a probing amendment to help data transfer between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, hopefully saving thousands of hours of time and effort by police officers that is very often wasted. Will the Leader of the House please advise me on when the Bill is likely to come back to this House on Report, when I may again push forward this issue?
May I start by thanking my hon. Friend for all the work she did on the Public Bill Committee, which completed its consideration of the Bill on 23 May? The Government are looking at how we can quickly achieve the objective she is focused on. She is right that we need to reduce any unnecessary burdens, while also maintaining both victim and witness confidence in the process. I will announce future business in the usual way.
Will the Leader of the House join me in expressing our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the 16-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed in Bath last weekend? He is the second young victim in Bath of this awful crime within six weeks. Will she confirm that here in Parliament we will do our utmost to get to the root causes of why young people are carrying knives, and that we will be working in our communities with all stakeholders and police forces across the country to erase this blight on our communities?
I am sure that I speak for the whole House in saying that we all send our condolences. Such an appalling attack is an absolute tragedy. The hon. Lady will know that this issue has been a focus of the Home Secretary. I thank all Members of the House who have been campaigning on it—most recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Anna Firth) raised the matter of how people can get the particularly brutal and unpleasant knives. This is an important matter for us all in this place, although that will be no comfort to the families who have had to endure these appalling tragedies.
In Barton-upon-Humber in the north of my constituency, the planning inspectors just overturned the local authority’s decision to develop a housing estate with 390 new homes. Although the development includes contributions for school places and leisure facilities, health services are most under pressure when we develop new housing estates. Could the Leader of the House find time for a debate to discuss the links between the provision of public services and the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important point. He is absolutely right that although there may be provision for one aspect of new infrastructure or public services, that is no comfort if there is no provision for others. He will know that the Health Secretary is looking at using data in a more effective way to ensure that local commissioners are delivering on the needs of their existing communities, as well as planning properly for their future communities. I will make sure he has heard my hon. Friend’s remarks.
I commend the Leader of the House for what she said about the Committee of Privileges. Frankly, every single member deserves a medal, not least because of the intimidation. I took what she said to mean that there will be a motion on Monday to endorse the report, which she will move and therefore will vote in favour of. Could she clarify that?
What I really want is a debate on Conservative Members’ understanding of the concept of time, because the right hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries) said that she was resigning with immediate effect, and the Government said last October that they would publish the legislation on conversion therapy by the spring. It certainly feels like summer out there to me.
Finally, can the Leader of the House tell us why Boris Johnson is entitled to £115,000 a year for life?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his multiple questions—he is getting value out of business questions. I can confirm that, as he would expect, a motion will ask the House to approve the fifth report of the Committee of Privileges. I stress again, let us approach this with the dignity and sobriety that the public would expect on a serious matter, and let us be considerate of how difficult such considerations will be, with regard to personal relationships between colleagues in this place. If we approach Monday’s debate with both those things in mind, we will have done our duty well in this place.
Spring is springy. It is important that, particularly on difficult Bills that deal with pioneering issues such as tackling conversion practices, we bring forward legislation that is in a good state as it goes into pre-legislative scrutiny. I follow the progress of all legislation carefully, and I hope to have some news on that Bill soon, which I will announce in the usual way.
Shopkeepers and consumers alike were given a reprieve when the Government paused the bonkers ban on “buy one, get one free” deals last year, but there is speculation that such a ban may yet come to be. That would be a victory for the nanny state and catastrophic for people’s food bills at a time of high food inflation. At the same time, the Government’s own data shows that it would only save children from consuming 3 to 4 calories a day. Can my right hon. Friend arrange for the relevant Minister to make a statement to the House, so that we can scrutinise what is actually going on with the policy?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I point to the remarks made by the Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box yesterday, when he said that no final decisions have been made on the policy and that he is very much listening to the concerns raised by my hon. Friend and others. Because families are facing issues with the cost of living, it is right that we consider these matters carefully.
The Leader of the House has announced time, if necessary, for further debate on Lords messages on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. However, on Monday only one hour was available for debate on Lords amendments to the Bill, and many Members who had wanted to speak could not be called. My constituents are still very concerned about the Executive power grab that the Bill represents, and the risk it poses to 40 years of accumulated workers’ and environmental rights. If she really believes in parliamentary sovereignty and taking back control, can she ensure that, at the very least, there is adequate time to debate the Bill?
The hon. Gentleman will know that this Government have given undertakings with regard to both workers’ and environmental protections; those matters are both important to us. I am always keen that Members should have time to debate matters properly. The changes that the Secretary of State for Business and Trade has made in her approach to EU retained law provides everyone with greater clarity about the issues that will be of interest to them.
Earlier this week, I held my regular roundtable meeting with headteachers of schools in Darlington. One of the biggest challenges they face is with school attendance, which has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Schools are facing increasing difficulties and are having to divert resources from teaching into getting kids out of bed and into the classroom. We know that education is the key to social mobility, so this Social Mobility Day, can my right hon. Friend find time for us to urgently debate school attendance? Finally, I join the voices calling for pre-legislative scrutiny of the conversion therapy ban, which is an issue that I am sure will come up in this afternoon’s debate about Pride Month.
On his latter point, I hope my hon. Friend will have heard my reassurances to the House in earlier answers.
School truancy and children missing from school after the pandemic have been a great focus for this Government. When we came into office, we had to tackle truancy rates that had gone up by 44% under the last Labour Government. We have worked hard to reduce that and school attendance was improving dramatically pre-pandemic, but the covid years have brought additional challenges. My hon. Friend knows that the Education Committee is undertaking an inquiry into persistent absence and the Schools Minister will be providing oral evidence to that Committee on 27 June.
The Leader of the House was in the Chamber for my urgent question and I know she was listening very carefully, so will we be able to have a debate in Government time to look at a new regulatory framework for abortion healthcare?
I was in the Chamber for the urgent question. I know the issue has been a concern for many Members over a long period of time, not just because of the recent case, which will have brought the matter to the fore again. We have just had an urgent question, but I can assure the right hon. Lady that my door is always open to discuss the things that are within my gift. I am talking to colleagues about what we can do to alleviate concerns. At the moment, there is little opportunity for Members to bring forward private Members’ Bills, but I am aware of what the possibilities are and I will continue to talk to colleagues to enable them to carry out what they wish.
Residents of Canon Court in Wallington have been fighting for many years with the block’s developer, Weston Homes, which has now reneged on its promise to replace the dangerous cladding on the building and is failing to engage with the leaseholders. May we have a debate in Government time about the rights of leaseholders to hold such developers to account and to have access to remediation that they were promised?
I am very sorry to hear about the ongoing issue in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I understand that the company to which he refers has signed the developer remediation contract. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has heard what my hon. Friend has said, and will ask his officials to advise my hon. Friend on the best course of action so that he can achieve what he wishes for those residents.
Tomorrow is Wear Yellow Day, although some of us are a day early. It is a very important day, on which people will wear yellow to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis and raise funds for research on life-changing treatments that can work for everyone with CF. I have reason to be grateful to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire and their CF specialist teams, for their care for my granddaughter, Saoirse Grace Fellows. She is very fortunate to be able to be treated with Trikafta, which involves taking one pill a day, but many other CF sufferers are not so lucky, and their condition limits the way in which they live from day to day. I pay tribute to them and their carers for this CF week, and for Wear Yellow Day tomorrow.
On behalf of all Members, I thank the hon. Lady for reminding us of the important week that is coming up, and for encouraging us all to play our part in raising awareness and also learning more about emerging treatments and people’s access to them—and let us all say hello to her granddaughter. I echo her sentiments about all those who are living with this condition.
Last week Skipton Building Society announced that it was closing its Neston branch, which means that Neston will no longer have any banks or building societies. As Members will know, this is a trend. It has already happened in Ellesmere Port, and throughout the country banks and building societies are leaving the high streets. I know that there have been attempts to set up banking clubs, but to my knowledge only four have been created in the whole country, and I think that the threshold for their creation is far too high. May we have a debate on what more we can do to ensure that these important facilities are not lost for good?
These facilities and services are vital to residents and businesses alike. I will ensure that those in the relevant Department know about the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised, and will ask that officials get in touch with his office to see what they can do to help.
This week I received an email from my constituent Chris, from Clydebank. Chris, like 25,000 other people in Scotland and many others across these islands, is what has come to be called a “mortgage prisoner”: someone who took out a mortgage with a lender that subsequently went bust, making it difficult to obtain a better deal elsewhere. Despite having owned his house for 20 years, Chris is no closer to paying off his mortgage, and despite his not missing any repayments, the principal rose by an additional £10,000 after his loan was then resold to a private equity company by the name of Heliodor in 2019. As Chris said this morning, on his terms of borrowing he would get a better deal from a loan shark than from Heliodor. May we have a debate in Government time—because this happened under the aegis of this Government—on the issue of mortgage prisoners?
I am very sorry to hear about the hon. Member’s constituency case. He is right that this situation affects a large number of people. He will know how to apply for a debate, and I would encourage him to do so, but I shall also ensure that the relevant Departments have heard the case that he has raised today.
This week I was delighted to be reselected as the chair of sickle cell and thalassaemia all-party parliamentary group. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Thank you. This Monday is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, yet people who suffer from the disease continue to feel ignored and let down. Will the Leader of the House speak with her colleague the Health Secretary to see what can be done to improve the situation for people who suffer from sickle cell disease? Free prescriptions would be a very good start indeed.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her re-election to that post. She will know that the next Health questions are on 11 July. I encourage her to raise the issue there, but I shall also make sure that the Secretary of State for Health has heard her asks today.
A constituent of mine, a mother of two, has been forced to bring up her children during their teenage years without maintenance payments from their father. He, meanwhile, set up home with a new partner and set up a company that claimed that it employed him on the minimum wage. Meanwhile, they both drive around in Tesla cars and have gone on to set up three more companies. This individual—this monster who left his children absolutely destitute throughout this period—has used the Child Maintenance Service’s appeals process several times to avoid making payments. May we have a statement from the relevant Minister on this matter, so that we can raise our concerns about the Child Maintenance Service’s backlog and discuss how these individuals can be stopped from being able to avoid making payments in future?
I am sorry to hear about that very sad case. The best thing that I can advise the hon. Gentleman to do is to raise this with the relevant Department—I think the relevant questions will be next week—but I shall also ensure that the Department has heard what he has said. He will know that we are very focused on getting all parents to grip their responsibilities, and if there is something we can do to assist, I am sure it will be done.
Reading for pleasure is one of life’s great joys. In recognition of the transformative importance of reading, physical and digital books are exempt from VAT. However, many people are simply unable to read paper or digital books because of a disability or other challenges, and rely on audiobooks, which are more expensive because they are subject to VAT. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out her support for removing VAT from audiobooks and ending this discrimination against those living with a disability, which impedes their ability to access books in the only way they can and therefore interferes with one of life’s great pleasures?
The hon. Lady makes a very good point about what is a recurring theme at business questions. Another Member raised the issue of sunscreen being seen as a luxury item and hence subject to VAT, even though it is important for people to wear. The hon. Lady sets out a good case to be made to the Treasury. Of course, we can do these things only because we are now in control of our whole fiscal policy. I think this is a great campaign, and I encourage her to raise it with the relevant Secretary of State.
In Monday’s debate on risk-based exclusions, one hon. Member said they were uncomfortable supporting the Commission’s proposals on safeguarding due to the fact that the Representation of the People Act 1981 has never explicitly precluded someone on the sex offenders register from standing for office. As utterly bizarre as I found the logic underpinning that argument, the problem struck me as being very easy to remedy. On that basis, will the Leader of the House please advise when she will bring forward a statutory instrument to amend the Representation of the People Act in order to disbar people who we already know are sex offenders from entering this place, and to ensure that those put on the register during their time in Parliament are ineligible to stay and cannot seek to return at subsequent elections?
The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. It was a very good debate, and Members clearly have different views on these matters, but I am very pleased that we seemed to identify the areas in which the Commission still has work to do. I hope we will be able to come back to the House in short order.
The hon. Lady will know that what she asks me to do is not in my lane as Leader of the House, but she and other hon. Members can secure a debate on the matter. I encourage her to raise her point with the relevant Secretary of State.
Can we have a debate on the treatment of football fans at matches, and specifically on how UEFA can be called to account for, once again, organising the Champions League final without respecting the needs and welfare of supporters? I was in Istanbul on Saturday and, although it was glorious to see City lift the trophy, it was marred by desperately inadequate transport arrangements, which led to fans standing in hot, crowded buses for hours; fans being unable to buy food or even water without queuing for well over an hour, having had water confiscated on the way in; and total chaos in the alleged car parks after the game, which resulted in fans walking back along the motorway, trying desperately to find a ride back to the city. I could go on but, once again, UEFA seemingly put the needs of supporters last. That needs to change.
I recently held a cost of living surgery at the Larkfield centre in Govanhill, with more than 160 attendees queuing around the building to seek assistance in this Tory cost of greed crisis. Many of those constituents are struggling to claim prepayment energy support vouchers. Can we have a statement from the Government on extending the 30 June deadline so there is a better chance of the 12,060 unclaimed vouchers in Glasgow Central being taken up? Will the Government also consider extending the voucher scheme, because so many other constituents are still struggling with the cost of energy?
The hon. Lady raises a very good point. She will know that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has been doing much more, including through reminders at prepayment meter top-up points that people need to claim the money that is owed to them and to which they are entitled. He is very focused on ensuring that everyone can benefit from the vouchers. The hon. Lady will know the Secretary of State has established a surgery so that Members can directly and quickly raise particular cases and issues, but I will make sure he has heard her suggestion.
I want to put on record my deep disappointment that there is no commitment to a debate on Grenfell. I wrote to the Leader of the House on 10 May asking for the Government to ensure there is a debate to mark the anniversary of Grenfell, in line with what the Government said during last year’s Backbench Business debate on the Grenfell anniversary, which I led. After chasing the letter, I received a reply only this week, just before the Grenfell anniversary, stating simply that I will soon get a full response.
It is simply not good enough that no debate has been agreed and organised this year, so will the Leader of the House commit today to preventing this from happening again next year and, in line with what was said last year, commit to a debate in Government time in the week of the Grenfell anniversary to mark the Grenfell Tower fire?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this point. We have always held a debate on Grenfell. I have not been directly involved in the discussion but, as he will know, the debates are attended by the families of the victims of that tragedy. On making inquiries, my understanding is it was felt by several people and organisations that not holding the debate on the anniversary, or on surrounding days, was appreciated because people understandably wanted to attend other events. We have always held a Grenfell debate, and I have no expectation of that being any different, but we will do so in consultation with others who may wish to be present for the debate.
I know the hon. Gentleman cares about this very deeply, and I hope what I have said today has reassured him that we are on the same page.
Right hon. and hon. Members will know that I always use a business question on a Thursday to bring to the House’s attention human rights issues, religious persecution and criminal acts across the world. Ever mindful of that, I note that those of the Baha’i faith are at the forefront of suffering discrimination and abuse. The Leader of the House always responds positively, and I thank her for that, but will she join me in condemning the arrest and disappearance of 17 Baha’is by Houthi gunmen in Yemen on 25 May, and call for their immediate release? Those individuals have been charged with apostasy and with being spies for Israel. All of that is untrue, but those charges could carry a death penalty under Yemeni law.
Although it is always good to hear from the hon. Gentleman, he, sadly, raises distressing cases. I am sure that all Members would want to express the sentiments that he has, and I thank him again for shining a spotlight on these individuals. It is appalling that people face these human rights abuses—that is what they are—and I hope that we have all been able to send a clear message that we are watching what happens to these individuals.