The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 18 July—Debate on a motion relating to the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
Tuesday 19 July—Second Reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Wednesday 20 July—Opposition day (6th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 21 July—Debate on a motion relating to a ban on manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares, followed by general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. Both subjects were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 22 July—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 5 September will include:
Monday 5 September—Remaining stages of the Finance Bill (day 1).
When can we have a debate on recidivism? This problem has not been reduced by any Government in the past 43 years. The cycle of repeated offending goes on and on, and it is now afflicting politics.
Yesterday’s Prime Minister committed political suicide by giving into his party and ordering a referendum that guaranteed the destruction of his premiership. Are we seeing the same thing repeated today? The hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) might have made a perfectly adequate Minister for the import of second-hand water cannon, but he is now the Foreign Secretary—especially for his services to Europhobia. He has been sacked twice from previous jobs for not telling the truth; he has insulted the President of the United States; and he has attacked people from all parts of the world from Liverpool to Papua New Guinea. Do these qualities mean he will be supreme in an area where the qualities of diplomacy and truthfulness are in demand?
The right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) is returning to the Government without any explanation of why he was disgraced and sacked from his previous appointment. At the time, Sir Philip Mawer was the independent adviser on ministerial conduct. He said that the right hon. Gentleman should have been investigated for what happened at the Ministry of Defence. The Prime Minister refused to refer the case to the adviser and Sir Philip resigned. The right hon. Member for North Somerset received absolution by resignation. What this means—this is a matter of concern for the Leader of the House, because it is his responsibility—is that the return of the right hon. Member for North Somerset to the Cabinet is a degradation of the probity of this House and the advances made by the previous Government. A Government are being created not in the best interests of the country but to deal with the perpetual internal war in the Conservative party between Europhiliacs and Europhobes.
Chilcot has given its verdict. It is a thunderous verdict of guilty not just for one man but for this House, the previous Government, the Opposition and three Select Committees. We are guilty, and are judged guilty, of commanding our valiant troops to fight a vain, avoidable war, and the Leader of the House is uniquely qualified and responsible for answering the charge.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has apologised on behalf of the Labour party: 179 of our gallant British soldiers died; their loved ones have a wound of grief that will never heal; 3,000 have been maimed in body and mind; uncounted Iraqis were killed, made homeless or exiled; the cycle of terrorism continues to this day—and all because of an act of folly, incompetence and vanity by this House. Will the Leader of the House take responsibility—it is his job—and arrange a formal apology, preferably face to face with the bereaved and surviving injured? This is the least a grateful nation can do for those we have grievously wronged.
I will come back to the last point in a moment, but I should start with congratulations: we are both still here; the hon. Gentleman is on his third week in the job. He has not yet acquired a new job, but with changes in the structure of Departments, perhaps he will have the opportunity of a third one—shadow International Trade Secretary—to go with his existing portfolio. If Labour party Front Benchers were a football team, they would have him in goal, him in defence, him in attack, lots of people on the left wing, nobody willing to play on the right and endless own goals.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the Foreign Secretary. I will take no lessons from a party that has the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) as its shadow Foreign Secretary. We have on those Benches a party that is not fit to be an Opposition, let alone an alternative Government. Over the past few months, we have heard from people now holding senior positions on the Opposition Benches views that undermine our armed forces and defences and are wholly unaligned with the national interest.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned matters of propriety. I simply remind him—he has raised this at business questions before from the Back Benches—that if he has complaints about any Member, there are channels available by which he can pursue them. But he has not done so. He also talked about internal war. This week of all weeks, a Labour politician talks of internal war in another political party. Labour Members have been trying again and again to get rid of their leader, but they just cannot do it. He is on the ballot paper and will probably win again, and they will be resigning all year. It is a complete shambles and Labour is a complete disgrace to this country politically. I will take no lessons from the Opposition about internal wars within a political party.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned Chilcot and says it is my responsibility to answer the charges. I simply remind him that it was a Labour Prime Minister who stood in the House and explained why we should support his decision to go to war in Iraq. It was a Labour Prime Minister, and it is for the Labour party to explain itself, not those of us who were in opposition at the time.
Last weekend, I and Members from across the House attended a rally for the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Unfortunately, we had to go to Paris to meet those good people and their brave leader, Maryam Rajavi. Why can we not invite the leader of the resistance to this country, so that we might help free Iran from the shackles of the mullahs?
I know that my hon. Friend believes passionately in this cause, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will have heard his comments and will want to give them careful thought.
May I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend, in his capacity as deputy Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, and the Chairman, who is also here, for returning to the tradition of a pre-recess Adjournment debate? It is something that the House values, and I am glad that they have done it.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. In the night and morning of the long silver spoons, the nation was glued to the television. “What would Grayling get?” was the question that perplexed the nation—the man who designed and fashioned the new Prime Minister’s leadership coronation would surely get a top job, but he is back here with us this morning, and the nation can only breathe a collective sigh of relief.
We had thought that the new Prime Minister did not have a sense of humour, but she has proved us totally wrong on that one by appointing the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) as the Foreign Secretary. We could almost have heard the guffaws of laughter from Parliaments and ambassadors last night as news got around that “Boris” was in charge of the UK’s foreign policy—and he is in charge of MI6, too. Perhaps the Leader of the House will tell us a little about how this new restructured Government are going to work. When will we see the new diet of departmental questions and how this is all going to come together?
Is it not ironic that the first motion that the new Prime Minister will put before this House on Monday is for a new generation of weapons of mass destruction? That will be resolutely opposed by my hon. Friends and me, and we hope that the Labour party will join us in opposing it. When this country is facing the disaster of Brexit and further austerity, in what world is it right to spend billions and billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons and nuclear re-armament?
Lastly, we are not even sure whether the Labour party has enough personnel resources to fill the places in all the new Departments that will be created. I have asked you this question already, Mr Speaker, but at what point do they fail to meet their obligations as the official Opposition as clearly set out in “Erskine May”? Can we have a debate about what is expected from Oppositions? Perhaps the Leader of the House will support a rearrangement of the furniture, so that this Government and he can experience some real opposition in this House.
I was slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman talk about the role of the Leader of the House as not being a top job; of course, he has the Scottish National party equivalent of that job, so I take it that he is, in fact, a junior member of his Front-Bench team.
On departmental questions, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Government are in the middle of a process of restructuring. We will make further information available shortly, and the House authorities will set out plans for a revised schedule for parliamentary questions. That is inevitable, and it will be in place for the start of the September sittings. As it stands, next week has a fairly routine collection of oral questions and I do not think there is any need for change there.
On Trident, the hon. Gentleman and his party have been very clear about their views. I am delighted to say that a large number of Labour Members will support us on Monday, and I am grateful to them for their support. What puzzles me is this: the SNP is vigorously opposed to Trident, but are SNP Members actually arguing that the Rosyth facility should be transferred south of the border? Are they suggesting that? Are they suggesting that the facilities in Scotland that provide jobs for people in Scotland should be transferred south of the border? [Interruption.] Are they or are they not suggesting that? I suspect that a lot of people who work in the nuclear sector in Scotland and who support those submarines would be deeply distressed if their jobs disappeared.
The Labour Front Bench is an issue on which the hon. Gentleman and I can clearly agree. It is an extraordinary situation to see multi-tasking and to see people who resigned from the Labour Front Bench 26 years ago making a comeback, as the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) has done. It will be fascinating to see over the next few weeks whether they will be able to get their act back together again or whether this shambles is going to continue for month after month.
One of the reasons why many people voted for Brexit was that they believed it would provide this country and our communities with more opportunity to shape their own futures. May we have a debate, in turn, on a regional strategy for transport infrastructure to sit alongside other provisions such as health and education, so that any additional housing can be sustainable?
My hon. Friend has made a similar point before, and I know she feels strongly about the devolution of powers to the regions. I am absolutely certain that, as we leave the European Union, there will be more opportunity for that to take place. Ironically, I suspect there will be more powers heading for Scotland, as well as for Wales and Northern Ireland. The point that she makes is a good one. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be in his place to answer questions on Monday, and my hon. Friend might like to bring the subject to the Floor of the House through an Adjournment debate.
I thank the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for filling in for me over the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, I visited the Somme, which ironically seemed like a place of real tranquillity in comparison with this place recently. Last week, we saw the opening of the A1 road-widening scheme in Gateshead, which has brought immense calm to the town centre as a result of displacing traffic. We are very grateful for that.
Will the Leader of the House please confirm that Thursday 8 September will be available for Back-Bench business? If business is to be tabled for that day, we shall need to consider it and table it next Tuesday, but without confirmation of the date, we shall not be able to do so.
Let me begin by welcoming the hon. Gentleman back to the Chamber. We have missed him over the last couple of weeks.
I am delighted to hear about the opening of the widened A1. There is something that I find very encouraging nowadays. Ten years ago, when I was shadow Transport Secretary, I travelled the country visiting marginal seats and other areas where industrial development was taking place but essential transport projects were not. Now, I am delighted to discover that such projects are being developed wherever I go, and the widened A1 is one of them. It will bring real bonuses to the north-east, and it is a sign that we care about areas—including the north-east—that are really important to the country.
As for that date in September, I will have a look at it. We have planned business only up to the day on which the House returns after the recess, but I will give careful thought to whether we can accommodate the hon. Gentleman in this regard.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for whoever happens to be the Minister responsible—I think it unlikely to be me—to make a statement about the status and protection of the green belt? My constituents in Burley in Wharfedale are facing a planning application for the building of 500 houses on the green belt in that village, and my constituents in Baildon are facing similar proposals. Surely, the whole point of the green belt is that it should be immune from house building. My constituents do not trust Bradford Council to look after their interests, and look to the Government to ensure that they are properly protected.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend is so pessimistic about his prospects in the reshuffle. I think we would all value his contributions were he to appear at this Dispatch Box.
Questions to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will take place on Monday, and my hon. Friend will then have an opportunity to raise an issue that I know is important to him and his constituents. As ever, he is a powerful advocate for Yorkshire and will continue to be so, even if it is still from the Back Benches.
Has the Leader of the House received a request from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for him to provide Government time for a debate on the fantastic contribution that the leisure industries make to the UK economy? Such a debate would allow Ministers to tell us how UK manufacturers will fulfil demand for major new infrastructure: a transcontinental network of zip wires to enable our new Foreign Secretary to travel around the world cheaply, with low environmental impact, and in the style to which he is accustomed.
The outgoing Chancellor was a great proponent of the northern powerhouse, and policies connected with that initiative are vital to constituencies such as mine. May we have an early debate on how new Ministers will develop the northern powerhouse concept?
The new Chancellor will take questions in the House on Tuesday, but I can also say that there is no question of a change in our focus on supporting the development of the northern part of the country, and encouraging economic growth and new investment. That will remain a priority for the new Government, and we are committed to a continuation of the progress that we have already made.
One of my constituents is currently detained at Yarl’s Wood. She is suffering ill health, and does not feel that her health concerns are being addressed. There is evidence to corroborate that. According to a recent report from the National Audit Office, 35% of recommendations from the chief inspector of prisons have yet to be implemented. Will the current Leader of the House offer an urgent debate on the issue?
I do not know about the individual constituency case, but I am sure that the hon. Lady will raise it with the new Home Secretary. Of course there are lessons to be learnt from the inspections that are carried out in institutions such as Yarl’s Wood. It continues to be a priority for the Government to ensure that we detain people decently, but also to ensure that we detain people when there is a serious question mark over their right to be in the country, and I think that that is right and proper.
Last night, GHA Coaches—which is in the constituency of Wrexham but has two depots in my constituency, in Tarvin and Winsford—went into administration, with the potential loss of 300 to 400 jobs. I should be grateful if the Leader of the House encouraged the new Secretary of State for Wales to liaise with the Department for Transport, and indeed with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to establish what support can be given to those who may be facing redundancy.
I am very sorry to hear of what must be very difficult and distressing news for my hon. Friend’s constituents and those in the next-door constituency of Wrexham, and all our good wishes in this House go out to those affected. When a business is put into administration, one always hopes that it is possible to save it. I know that the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Wales Office will do everything they can to provide appropriate support, where they are able to do so.
Life in Iraq: imagine your phone rings and the question is, “Are you a Christian?”, and the answer is, “Yes, I believe in Jesus.” The second question is, “Are you in the police?”, and the answer is, “Yes, I am,” and then you are told that you must leave or die. This is what happened to Franco Said, a policeman in Baghdad, and his family. They fled to Irbil in northern Iraq the very next day. No one is safe from Daesh in Iraq. Murdering the Christian faith in Iraq is truly a reality for many. Will the Leader of the House agree to there being a statement on this matter as soon as possible?
I have every sympathy with the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. The tragedy is that parts of the middle east used to be beacons of stability, with religions standing side by side, having done so for hundreds of years. The persecution that has taken place of Christian populations, typically by extremists, is absolutely unacceptable and a tragedy. I know the hon. Gentleman’s comments will have been listened to by the new Foreign Secretary. We as a Government continue to do everything we can to encourage an end to this kind of persecution, but of course we face extraordinarily difficult security situations there. We will carry on doing our best.
The Government are preparing to negotiate Brexit, which will rightly secure the future of EU nationals in the UK and UK citizens living abroad. Does the Leader of the House agree that this is a fine opportunity to settle the issue of the lettori, foreign nationals working in Italian universities who have been discriminated against in their pay and working conditions for decades, despite several EU judgments against the Italian Government? May we have a statement from the Government to say that the issue of the lettori will be dealt with during the Brexit renegotiations? It would be very satisfying, on leaving the EU, to resolve an issue that we are completely unable to deal with while we are in the EU.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned on this issue for a long time; he has raised it with me before at business questions. The Foreign Office continues to put pressure on the Italian Government over this. Our ambassador in Rome has made representations recently about it, and will continue to do so. It is, and should remain, unacceptable for discrimination of this kind to take place in any civilised country.
Last week, this House debated claims by the Vote Leave campaign that an extra £350 million a week would be available for the NHS if we voted to leave the EU. The problem with that debate was that none of the Members who made those claims attended the House to answer for their claims, so may we have that debate again, please, only this time will the Members associated with that claim attend and answer for their actions?
In the light of growing concerns about the increase in childhood obesity, may we have a ministerial statement on what the Government are doing to tackle the problem, and will the Leader of the House confirm whether that will include bringing forward a childhood obesity strategy?
I am delighted that the Leader of the House is still here, but we all know that soon one of the great offices of state will undoubtedly be his. In the meantime, may we, through him, congratulate the Prime Minister on her choices and the quality of her sackings and dismissals from Government over the last 24 hours? I think that we can agree on that, on a cross-party basis. The new Secretaries of State—the right hon. Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), and for North Somerset (Dr Fox)—are serious politicians, but it seems that their boss is the court jester: the new Foreign Secretary. Will these serious politicians have their own Departments of State, or will they be answering to the new Foreign Secretary?
All the new Secretaries of State will be accountable to this House in the normal way when they head a Department. The Department that will take us out of the European Union has been expressly designed by the new Prime Minister to be a separate Department, and its Secretary of State will be accountable to the House in the normal way.
That is also something that we will have to address, probably during the September fortnight. Clearly there is a relationship between a Government Department and a Select Committee, so as new Departments are established, or existing ones are reshaped or renamed, the Select Committee structure will have to change as well. That is something that we will address over the next few days in preparation for either renaming Select Committees or appointing members to new ones when we return after the summer recess.
I for one am extremely pleased to see the Leader of the House still in his position, because in April I advised him that Porthcawl primary school, with its Porthcawl power team, had won second place in the Jaguar Formula 1 primary schools challenge, demonstrating the great capabilities of science, technology, engineering and maths—STEM—teaching in Wales, and I can now bring him the good news that the school won the national championship. Will he give the House a statement of his support and congratulate Porthcawl primary school’s power team on its great success in demonstrating the importance of STEM teaching across the UK? Before I sit down, may I say—on behalf of myself, of the First Minister of Wales, my Assembly Member Carwyn Jones, and of the leader of my local authority, who is our armed forces champion—that in our view, the Labour party strongly supports the armed forces?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that last point. There are those in the Labour party who do not take that view, or who have misgivings about aspects of the way in which our armed forces work, and many of them sit on the Front Bench, but I know that a large number of people across the ranks on the Labour Benches are as committed to our armed forces as anyone on our side of the House. I am also glad to be able to respond to this latest success. I remember the hon. Lady asking her earlier question and my telling her what a great achievement that was, but to win the national prize is excellent. The school must be enormously proud, and I am sure that everyone across the House would wish to send it their congratulations. She has every reason to be proud of her young constituents.
The death toll from recent protests in Indian-held Kashmir continues to grow, and hundreds have now been injured in the violence, most of them young people. Many face losing their sight after being blinded by shotgun pellets. Given the widespread concern in the UK about the situation in Kashmir, may we have an urgent debate on the violence there?
The reports of the disturbances, injuries and deaths in Kashmir are very worrying, and they will be a matter of very great concern indeed to members of the Kashmiri community in this country. Of course this Government will continue, as we always do, to provide support and encouragement to—and put pressure on—other Governments where this kind of ongoing trouble is taking place. We will continue to do everything we can to facilitate peace in that troubled part of the Asian subcontinent.
When the Leader of the House was talking about Chilcot earlier, he said that, on the issue of why we went to war in Iraq, it was “for the Labour party to explain itself, not those of us who were in opposition at the time”. That is not entirely true, however, because the Government of which he is a member are refusing to release the confidential advice that Whitehall officials gave to Gordon Brown about the remit of the inquiry. That advice made it impossible for Sir John Chilcot to rule on whether the 2003 war was illegal. The Government’s refusal flies in the face of an Information Tribunal ruling ordering the material’s release. This means that the public cannot see what options were considered when the nature and scope of the inquiry were decided on in 2009. May we have a statement on the reasons for the refusal to release that advice?
I can see the report here in front of me, and the one thing that cannot be said about the Chilcot inquiry is that it was not exhaustive. Over the past couple of weeks, what has emerged is a really detailed piece of work about what happened, the mistakes that were made and the lessons learned, and I think we should all be grateful to Sir John for the work he has done. I do not think that there is any shortage of evidence about what took place.
Following the excellent report a few weeks ago by the Select Committee on Transport, may we have a debate on the full-lane running of motorways without the hard shoulder? Such motorways have recently come to my constituency, and I welcome the investment, but I agree with the Committee’s safety concerns, particularly as at least 20 miles more of this type of motorway is coming to Staffordshire over the next few years.
I absolutely understand my hon. Friend’s point. Full-lane running can make a real difference on our motorways, particularly because cars are so much more reliable today than they were a generation ago, but I am aware of the Transport Committee’s concerns. The Government will respond to the report in due course and will always put safety right at the forefront of their considerations.
I will certainly ensure that the new Justice Secretary is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. I tracked the issue closely when I was Justice Secretary. I looked very hard, talked to people on the frontline and made significant changes to how we handle Islamic extremism in our prisons, but we clearly need to watch the issue continually, and ensure that all the lessons are learned and that the report’s recommendations are studied carefully. I am sure that the Ministry of Justice will do that.
Both Corby and Kings Cliffe are suffering as a result of post office branch closures, so may we have a debate next week on the importance of putting alternative arrangements in place before branches are closed? Will the Leader of the House join me in calling on the Post Office to sort out this mess as a priority?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I join him in hoping that the Post Office will be careful and proactive in how it approaches closures, including looking for places where alternative provision can be made, particularly for the older generation, who often depend on their local post office. I am sure that the leadership of the Post Office will have heard his comments today and will take note.
The Government recently closed the consultation on reform of the civil service compensation scheme, which has seen significant reforms that the Government claim are fair and affordable in the long term, though we know what the Government’s track record on pensions is like. May we have a debate on that issue? My constituent Libby King transferred within the civil service from Northern Ireland to Scotland with 11 years’ service, and was told that she could not transfer, losing £25,000. May I also ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office—whoever that might be—to carry out an impact assessment and publish its findings, and to respond to the letter that I sent to the Minister some weeks ago?
I clearly do not know the details of the case concerned. If the hon. Lady has written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, I will ask my office to chase that up on her behalf. She mentioned our record on pensions; I remind her that it was us who relinked the state pension to earnings and created the triple-lock guarantee. We are doing more for our pensioners than previous Governments did for a long time.
Speaking from the Dispatch Box on Monday, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said:
“there is a very real systemic issue with DB”—
“pension schemes that we need to look at”.—[Official Report, 11 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 12.]
He is right. Of the 6,000 defined benefit schemes in the UK, 5,000 are in deficit. The Pensions Regulator has raised concerns about additional risks to such schemes following the vote to leave the EU. We are talking about a real risk to pension fund members. May we have a debate in Government time on this crucial issue?
There is no doubt that defined benefit schemes face enormous pressures because, most fundamentally, of the change in lifespan over the past few decades. It is a good thing that we are living longer, but it makes it much more difficult to fund a pension fund through a vastly longer period of retirement. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about this issue, which the Department for Work and Pensions is monitoring carefully, and he will no doubt take advantage of the opportunities in the House, either in oral questions or in an Adjournment debate on the Floor of the House, to raise the matter directly with Ministers.
Public Health England recently reported a dramatic rise in the incidence of sexually transmitted disease in the UK since 2012. The figures should set alarm bells ringing about the availability of sexual health services, and the strong link between poor sexual health and higher levels of deprivation. May we have an urgent debate in Government time on the provision of sexual health services and investment in prevention to begin to address this growing health crisis?
One reason why we devolved responsibility for public health to local authorities is that it provides the opportunity for them to put in place tailored approaches to suit the needs of their local communities. Smart councils can now address very well precisely the kind of problem that the hon. Lady is talking about.
In yesterday’s Adjournment debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) made an excellent case for a city deal for the Tay cities area and, to be fair, the Minister was very positive in response to that. Stirling has also applied for a city deal, so will the Government make a statement on the status of current bids, including Stirling’s, and in particular on the timescales, given the change of Government and the recent Brexit decision?
The city deals are proving to be a very positive thing. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be here on Monday for Community and Local Government questions. He has been heavily involved in city deals. It is worth remembering that if Scotland were independent from the United Kingdom, there would be no city deals.
With the news that the new Prime Minister has sacked not only the Culture Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Justice Secretary, but the Education Secretary, would this be a good opportunity to debate improving the teaching of geography and of classics? Improving the former would allow the Leader of the House to learn the difference between Faslane and Rosyth, while improving the latter would enable the children of this country to learn that the appointment of the new Foreign Secretary must be the most remarkable appointment since the Emperor Caligula appointed his horse a senator.
Even the Leader of the House can get momentarily confused between two places, but I am still certain that the Scottish National party would struggle to convince the communities adjoining the base at Faslane that it is a jolly good idea to lose that facility to somewhere else; it makes no sense at all. On learning classics, I remind the hon. Gentleman that more than 1 million more children than in 2010 are being educated in good or excellent schools, and I am very proud of that.
We now have a Prime Minister who, as Home Secretary, led the charge on scrapping the Human Rights Act. People will be concerned, given her promotion, that this assault on human rights will continue, possibly at a faster rate. May we have a debate on the matter, as that would give the new Cabinet a chance to spell out their intentions clearly?
Clearly, the hon. Lady did not listen to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) a couple of weeks ago when she launched her campaign to be leader of our party and Prime Minister of this country, in which she said that she was not currently planning to pursue the option mentioned.
I know that this is a matter of concern, and these things have happened on one or two occasions in my constituency. I believe that trading standards officers have the powers to intervene, but if the hon. Gentleman has specific ideas about where those powers could and should be strengthened and wants to write to me with them, I will pass them to the appropriate Minister.
In that case, I am afraid that the hon. Lady’s words of wisdom—I do not doubt they will be just that—will have to be put into storage and used on another occasion, to which we all look forward with bated breath and beads of sweat upon our foreheads in eager anticipation.
Westbourne House is a hostel run by Humbercare in my constituency, and it deals with people who have a variety of issues. When it was set up, the chief executive of Humbercare decided not to consult the local community, and he also did not tell me about what was happening. Since then, despite the good efforts of the police and the front-line staff in the hostel, there have been ongoing problems with antisocial behaviour. Would it be possible to have a debate about the responsibilities of people who hold office—chief executives of charities and organisations—when they take decisions that cause real problems in local communities? It seems very difficult to get any action taken in cases such as this.
The hon. Lady makes her point in her customary forthright way. I know that this will be a matter of great concern to her constituents. It is essential that when such facilities are established, they are established in the right place. All of us over the years have discovered cases where that has not happened. The matter will have to be dealt with by the local authorities, but I understand the point that she makes, and she has made it very well.
In recent weeks, Clydebank Asbestos Group has brought to my attention the fact that requests to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for workplace histories for those suffering from mesothelioma conditions, such as my constituents George Cairney, Dennis Dunn and Alistair McDermind, are still unresolved after almost a year. Will the Leader of the House urge the new Chancellor of the Exchequer to review HMRC’s procedures and seek early compliance with workplace history requests for those suffering from life-threatening conditions, and to bring that review to the Floor of the House?
I understand how desperately difficult it is for people suffering from mesothelioma, which is a horrible, horrible condition. The new Chancellor will be here on Tuesday, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to come to the House and make that point. It is a very important one.
On a point similar to that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell), I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 310 on the civil service compensation scheme and the Government’s proposals to cut exit payments drastically by between 25% and 60%.
[That this House is concerned by the Government’s proposed reforms of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS); notes the proposal to drastically cut civil service compensation payments by between 25 and 60 per cent, affecting thousands of civil servants across the UK; is alarmed that these reforms are being brought forward at the same time as hundreds of government offices are closing and departments are facing immense pressure to downsize, putting thousands of civil service jobs at risk; is aware that the then Minister for the Cabinet Office introduced changes to the CSCS in 2010 which he described as fair and sustainable in the long term; further notes that an equality impact assessment on these proposed new reforms has not been carried out; is concerned that cuts to the CSCS may affect older workers, women, those with disabilities and BME civil servants; notes that civil servants across the UK are facing an uncertain future and that additional uncertainty regarding exit payments has had a negative impact on staff morale and health; and therefore calls on the Government to halt its plans to further cut the CSCS and instead invest in the civil service through staff training, decent pay rises and honouring the terms and conditions of all civil servants.]
May we have a debate in Government time on this issue, as it is severely affecting civil servants’ morale?
This is one of the difficult challenges that we have faced as a Government over the past six years. Ever since we took office in 2010, the compensation schemes have been very much out of kilter with what would happen in the private sector. There comes a point when we have to say that we have a duty to the taxpayer to have a system that is balanced, appropriate and consistent with what people would face in other employment.
I am sure the whole House agrees that the UK Government should support the families of service personnel who have died while serving, but a group of UK military widows are prevented from receiving pensions if they remarried before April last year. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate in Government time on how we can close this illogical and deeply unjust loophole?
May we have a debate on Cabinet appointments? It strikes me that aside from insulting foreigners, the new Foreign Secretary is not actually interested in foreign affairs. Since the beginning of this Parliament, he has tabled no written or oral questions to the Foreign Office and has bothered to turn up for only four Foreign and Commonwealth Office statements. Should we move to a position in which Parliament approves Cabinet appointments, as we do in Holyrood, rather than those being made at the Prime Minister’s discretion?
Last week, I asked the Leader of the House a question about the House of Lords, and I got the worst answer that I have received in this place to date. That is quite an achievement, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman. When asked about the Government’s position, his answer was that the SNP should have brought forward private Members’ Bills. He knows full well that his Back Benchers would talk out private Members’ Bills, and his Government have refused to implement the recommendations of the Procedure Committee to improve the private Members’ Bills system. I will therefore try again. Why does the Leader of the House think it is acceptable to have 26 Bishops of the Church of England sitting in the House of Lords making legislation? Why should they be allowed to vote on legislation that affects Scotland?
I am going to give the hon. Gentleman the same answer again. I do not believe it is a priority for this country to start reforming the House of Lords. If SNP Members feel so strongly about it, why have we had no Opposition day debate about it and no private Members’ Bills about it? They talk about the issues that they are concerned about, but when they have the chance to act, they simply do not.