The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 12 September—Remaining stages of the Wales Bill.
Tuesday 13 September—Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill.
Wednesday 14 September—Motions to approve statutory instruments relating to welfare reform in Northern Ireland and to pensions, followed by Opposition day (un-allotted half day). There will be a debate on NHS sustainability and transformation plans on an Opposition motion.
Thursday 15 September—Debate on a motion relating to domestic abuse victims in family law courts, followed by debate on a motion relating to quantitative easing. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 16 September—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 10 October will include:
Monday 10 October—Second Reading of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 15 September and 13 October will be as follows:
Thursday 15 September—Debate on sixth report of the Justice Committee of Session 2015-16 on prison safety. This subject was determined by the Liaison Committee.
Thursday 13 October—General debate on the tobacco control strategy. This subject was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members of all parties represented in the House will want to wish the GB Paralympic team success on this, the first day of competition. Speaking personally, as the Member of Parliament who represents Stoke Mandeville, I think that everyone in the United Kingdom can take some considerable pride in the fact that it was in this country, due to the genius and drive of Ludwig Guttmann, that we saw the creation of the disability sport movement, which has grown into the worldwide Paralympic movement whose achievements we shall celebrate over the next two weeks.
We thank the Leader of the House for his answers. We are all basking in the reflected glory of the brilliant successes of our Olympians, and we too acknowledge the pioneering work in this country on the introduction of the concept of the Paralympic games. We all wish our Paralympians well. If there is a minor quibble, it is that this is an odd moment, when we are celebrating our sporting success, to diminish the time available for Culture, Media and Sport questions. The Opposition have reluctantly gone along with that decision, but we see it as a temporary measure. We certainly do not see any of those areas as minor in any way, and we look forward to the restoration of the full time that was previously available for those questions.
Next week’s Welsh debate will illustrate the degraded system of our democracy and the way in which it is heading into further distress. The Wales Bill will not guarantee a compensatory increase in the number of Members of the Welsh Assembly, although their work load has trebled. Wales will lose 11 of its 40 MPs as well as the four MEPs who represent Wales. There is great turmoil in our democratic system as the disgrace of buying places in the House of Lords continues. The press have rightly condemned the decisions taken by the previous Prime Minister to award places in the House of Lords, which is already bloated and trying to cope with 300 extra Members that it does not need, in order to placate the interests of lobbyists, cronies and party donors. Instead of piecemeal reform of only one defect in our democracy that will please and help only the Tories and disfranchise 2 million voters, we should get together and realise how degraded is our democracy and reach an all-party agreement on an all-embracing reform that will consider all the abuses in order to create a fair system that is good value for our electors and one that can win back international respect for the quality of our democracy.
The decision to halt the contract for Hinkley Point C was bold and brave. There is no crisis of security; the system being introduced is out of date and has never worked anywhere in the world due to endless construction delays—multi-billion cost overruns have happened in other countries. We must also reconsider the striking of an atrocious deal that will saddle electricity users with the world’s highest electricity prices for the next 35 years. Will the Leader of the House give us a debate before any final decision on Hinkley is taken, so that we can consider all these aspects in this House before we blunder into what could be a gigantic financial and technological disaster?
Finally, the Leader of the House had a distinguished record as a Minister for European affairs, so why are we retreating from our role of providing the gold standard for human rights in the world—certainly throughout Europe? By insisting on a minor matter of our own traditional practices, we are inviting other countries—oppressive regimes—to go back to their traditions of abusing their citizens and degrading human rights. If we are no longer the trailblazers and do not provide the gold standard, others will slip backwards. Is that not a retrograde step? We should consider continuing to be a full part of the European Court of Human Rights and following all the European traditions of human rights, in which we have led for many years.
On the rota for oral questions, the usual channels will review it depending on how the new arrangements work out in practice.
Turning to the hon. Gentleman’s question about human rights, I must say that there is absolutely no retreat on the Government’s part from the high human rights standards that we set for ourselves in this country, and which we follow through in the promotion of our foreign policy objectives. The human rights of the United Kingdom were well developed, established and had a fine reputation before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998. There is a long-standing issue over decisions relating to the application of article 8 of the European convention on human rights in particular extradition cases, so we are looking at how we might remedy some of those problems. However, the Prime Minister and the entire Government are absolutely clear that we stand by the human rights embodied in the Eurpoean convention, which after all was very much the product of work by United Kingdom jurists and politicians at the time.
On Hinkley, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, we intend to take a decision very soon. In framing an energy strategy, we always have in mind the need to deliver on our climate change objectives and on ensuring security of energy supply, at reasonable cost, to both domestic consumers and British industry, so that British industry can be competitive in some quite fierce global markets.
I suspect that on the House of Lords the hon. Gentleman and I voted the same way, when those things were debated in a previous Parliament, in respect of a wholly or a partially elected upper House, but the truth was that there was no consensus, nor anything approaching it, in the House of Commons, within parties or across them, as to how that issue should be addressed. So it is not likely to be fruitful to try to pursue House of Lords reform as an early priority.
I was sorry about the disparaging tone that the hon. Gentleman adopted towards the Wales Bill, because this Government’s record in Wales has been about delivering the increased devolution that the Welsh people, the Welsh Assembly and political parties, for the most part, in Wales have been saying they wanted to see. I was not shocked, but I was disheartened by the critical remark he threw in about the approach of the parliamentary Boundary Commission and the framework within which it is operating. One of my treats since my appointment has been to dip into his autobiography, and I found on pages 57 and 58 of his memoirs that he lauded the achievements and record of the Chartists. He spelled out that one of the Chartists’ key objectives was that we should have constituencies with equal numbers of electors in each constituency. The framework under which the Boundary Commission is operating will deliver one of the charter objectives, which he so strongly supported, so I should have thought he would be cheering us on, not criticising us.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is consulting on some remarkable changes—at least they are proposed changes. It is presenting itself before various Committees and will have two sessions before the Administration Committee, in which I have some interest. Will he agree to a debate in the House that might give IPSA the opportunity to get a better understanding of what it is like to be an MP and how it can assist, rather than hinder?
It is an important principle that IPSA is statutorily independent, but my hon. Friend is right in saying that any decisions about the salaries, pensions and expenses of Members of Parliament ought to be informed by a proper understanding of what the responsibilities of being an MP involve and of the multifarious ways in which different Members, because of the nature of their constituencies, go about doing the job. That information is important. On a debate, I suggest that the proper course would be for the Backbench Business Committee to consider this, if a large number of Members feel that a debate of that kind is needed.
I, too, thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and join him in wishing the very best to our Paralympians as they start their business of, we hope, winning a new clutch of gold medals for this country.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that there would be no “running commentary” on the Brexit negotiations, when refusing to say whether she was in favour on the simple question of whether we should be in a single market or not. That sounded to me—it might just be me—that this House will simply be expected to accept whatever this Government concoct in this Brexit deal, as soon as they get round to deciding what that is going to be in the first place. The Leader of the House is Parliament’s champion; he has an obligation and a duty to represent this House. Will he confirm to us today that this House will be kept bang up to date on every detail of these negotiations on the single biggest issue in our public life today?
We already know that this Government have no intention of bringing the trigger for article 50 to this House—God knows where that leaves their whole concept of parliamentary sovereignty. We have also learned, second hand, that there will be no Australian points-based system. That is the UK Independence party’s favoured immigration system, yet it is too liberal for the Tories. Instead, they are going to have some sort of great wall of Calais constructed. I say to the Leader of the House: please let us have no more meaningless waffle from the Secretary of State for splendid isolation and no more keeping this House and the public in the dark about what this Government propose on Brexit.
This morning, it was announced that billions of pounds will be spent on refurbishing this House. I am sure that the Leader of the House meant to announce that we were going to have a full statement on that and a proper debate in Government time on the proposals, particularly as we have learned that this project could cost up to £4.3 billion of public money. I am sure that all our constituents would want to know whether that is a good use of public money.
Lastly, let me go back to the constituency issue in the House of Lords that the shadow Leader of the House so deftly raised. The Government were going to make an announcement on their latest plans to gerrymander constituency boundaries. They do not really need to do it any more, as the plans were designed to stymie the Labour party, which does not need to be stymied any further. I know that the plans give the Conservative party a lead of 30 seats, but that is not necessary any more. When we have that debate, can it be for all of Parliament, because we have to take into account what is going on in that absurd House down the corridor? It cannot possibly be right that we are increasing the number of unelected Lords while at the same time decreasing the number of elected Members. Can we have that debate and that statement?
Yes, Parliament will be kept fully informed at the appropriate times about the progress of the negotiations, although I think even the hon. Gentleman will understand that if there is an ongoing negotiation, it would be foolish of any Government of any political party to go into minute detail about how those negotiations were progressing, because that would disadvantage this country in the progress of those negotiations. The Government will indeed report back at regular intervals, and Ministers will additionally be available to answer those oral and written questions. It is also open to Members to make an application to Mr Speaker for urgent questions and debates if they feel that the case is strong.
I just say to the hon. Gentleman that he should look at the track record this week. On the first day back, we had my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union answer questions about this matter for about two hours. Yesterday, in giving a statement about the G20 summit, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spent a lot of her time responding to Members’ questions about the impact on the United Kingdom’s international position of the decision to leave the European Union. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can claim to have been short-changed this week.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the report on the restoration and renewal project that is to be published at midday today by the Joint Committee. It is a report which, like any Select Committee report, has been developed by the Members concerned. The Government have not had any input into it, nor have we had any prior copies of the report sent to us so that we could make comments before the Committee made its announcements today. Parliament will have an opportunity to debate the matter before any decisions are taken. Decisions about the future of the Palace will be a matter for this House and for the House of Lords.
Finally on the boundary changes, I just say to the hon. Gentleman that the principle involved here is equality of weight of votes. It really would be an affront to democracy if we went into an election in 2020 on the basis of electoral rolls that were based on a census that was nearly two decades old by that point and where we had some Members representing 100,000 electors and others representing significantly fewer than half that total.
I note that the Leader of the House has announced the Second Reading of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, and wonder whether there is enough time in that to debate the substantial and innovative recommendations of the local plans expert group to simplify the whole process, including neighbourhood planning, or whether he will recommend a second debate.
On behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, I welcome the opening of a new and positive dialogue with the Leader of the House about the allocation of parliamentary business to Backbench debates. I know that he would welcome advance notice of any time-sensitive subject applications. We had such an application to the Committee on Tuesday for the week beginning 10 October from the hon. Members for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and for Colchester (Will Quince), with support from across the House. The week beginning 10 October is baby loss week and they sought a debate about baby loss, infant mortality in the first year of life and still birth, which I think would gain great support across the House. If we could find a slot during that week, we would be very appreciative.
Wellingborough prison is a reserve prison so it is not operating at the moment. It is at the end of a large residential area, and three days ago 10 Traveller families dumped themselves on the prison car park. The Ministry of Justice has tried its best to move them. The situation has become unacceptable to my constituents, especially those living nearby. May we have a statement next week on how the Government deal with Travellers who are on Crown property?
Quite a number of Members from all parties have had this problem where there has been an unauthorised encampment on privately or publicly owned land and local residents have become distressed about it. I am sure that the appropriate Minister will want to talk to my hon. Friend about this particular case, but he might want to consider applying to Mr Speaker for an Adjournment debate so that he can air his views about the local situation more fully and secure a detailed response from the Minister concerned.
The Campaign for Better Transport has this week set out its concerns that the Government’s Bus Services Bill will have a huge impact on rural bus services. I regularly receive complaints from constituents about the deterioration in their bus services, especially in the rural areas around Silloth and the Solway plain. Will the Leader of the House ensure that when the Bill comes for debate there will be proper time to discuss the impact on rural bus services?
I am sure there will be ample time to have those discussions, which will of course be relevant to Members across the House who have rural constituencies. There are some real challenges; many rural bus services provide a vital lifeline to what is often a minority of people due to the spread of car ownership. So the customer base shrinks, but those services are still important. I hope that the debate will encompass other things, such as the use of new technology to help provide community transport services, which in my constituency and others are providing a useful additional form of support to people living in villages.
May we have a debate on paediatric training in the NHS in England? In my constituency the children’s emergency centre at County hospital has been temporarily closed due to a lack of sufficient trained staff, and I understand that I am not the only Member of Parliament who has this problem in their constituency.
I understand, particularly given the history of hospital services in Staffordshire, why my hon. Friend is so concerned. He has been a strong champion of patients in his constituency. I was sorry to hear what had happened. The local health authorities have obviously taken the decision on the grounds of patient safety, and that clearly must come first, but I hope that those local problems can be resolved as rapidly as possible. The Government are certainly determined to continue to ensure the highest possible paediatric training standards.
May I take the opportunity to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment? In January, the Government announced welcome proposals for a partnership between the Department for Transport and Transport for London to specify and manage metro services in London when individual franchises lapse. May we have a debate on how those proposals have developed in the months since and how the Government intend to take them forward in the months ahead?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome to me. I will draw his remarks to the attention of both the Minister for London and the appropriate Minister in the Department for Transport, and I will ask one of them to make contact with him about the matter.
I am delighted that the importance of industrial strategy has now been formally recognised, not least with its inclusion in the title of a Government Department. May we have a debate on its terms of reference and its aims and objectives?
It sounds to me as though that would be an excellent idea for my hon. Friend to propose to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. I am sure my ministerial colleagues would welcome it if such a debate were secured, because the industrial strategy will be important for the future prosperity of this country. It is important that we have a strategy that works for all sectors of industry, particularly for the new industries that will provide the growth and opportunity for this nation in the future, and that it is a strategy that works for all parts of the United Kingdom.
Every single day in my constituency, I have low-income workers getting in touch after their tax credit support, wrongly and without warning, is stopped by Concentrix, an American company contracted by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and paid on a payment-by-results model—in short, commission. This causes immense stress and hardship to households. At this point, 12% of all inquiries to my office are about this issue. Will the Leader of the House commit to holding an urgent debate on this matter before more people experience this harsh and brutal situation?
Although decisions about tax credits are not always what applicants want, every constituency MP would agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is very important that decisions are taken as promptly as possible and that they are accurate. He is right to say that people who are on low incomes to start with are completely thrown if an application that is justified is rejected or there is an attempt unjustifiably to claw back money after the event. I will let the relevant Treasury Minister know about the point. The hon. Gentleman may want to seek an Adjournment debate on it, but I hope very much that the problems that he has described will be resolved by HMRC and its contractors as rapidly as possible because constituents deserve a better service than that.
To assist my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in the consideration of the Brexit process, I have a little idea to run past him. Can he enlighten us about the state of the discussions on the scrutiny by Select Committees of the Brexit process? My sense is that the convention is very clear: each Department should have a Select Committee. We have two new Departments; there should be two new Select Committees. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issue, the need for bandwidth and the need for all sorts of other committees to be involved as well, it would help if we got going on those Select Committees as soon as possible. Can he help, as I am sure the House wants to see such scrutiny?
I will do my utmost to help. These matters are the subject of continuing discussions between the usual channels. In anything relating to the establishment of Select Committees, if it is humanly possible to have cross-party agreement, it is better that we should achieve that.
Trossachs Mobility is a new and innovative charity that has been established in my constituency to offer opportunities to people who are wheelchair users to get out and about in the outdoors—the spectacular terrain, woodland and hills in the Trossachs. May we have a debate to explore how we can promote such excellent initiatives across the country?
That is an excellent subject for the hon. Gentleman to draw to the attention of Department for Work and Pensions Ministers at the next Question Time, or for him to seek an Adjournment debate on, because if that scheme is working well in his constituency, the word should be spread and others should look to see whether that is an example that they could copy.
The next time the House meets with meaningful time to hold debates will be in October. The Government have given a lot of money to flood defences around the United Kingdom, with another £12.5 million today for the north. Could we have time to have a debate in this Chamber, or a statement from the Government, about the future of flooding and flood defences? Flooding—not just sea flooding, but flash flooding internally—affects all our nation, and it has to continue to be debated in this Chamber.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I well recall that his constituency was very badly affected by floods a couple of years ago, and he was the most fearless and outspoken champion of his constituents at that time. A report was, coincidentally, published earlier today by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on flooding and the Government’s 25-year plan for flood resilience. I would urge my hon. Friend and all Members who take an interest in these matters to study that report. It has a number of important conclusions, but also proposals on how the Government will take these matters forward into the future. I take note of his request for a debate; I clearly cannot promise one at the moment, but I understand the importance of the subject.
On 19 August, a faulty Indesit tumble-dryer caused a major fire at Shepherd’s Court, a block of over 100 flats overlooking Shepherd’s Bush green. Some 26 families were forced to move out, and the homes and possessions of some of them were totally destroyed. It is a miracle there were no deaths or serious injuries. There are millions of these faulty products out there; they are not being recalled by the manufacturers. May we have a statement from the Government on how manufacturers can be made to recall and replace faulty white goods, as demanded by the London fire brigade’s “Total Recalls” campaign?
There is a question mark in my mind about the legal position if goods have indeed been sold that are a demonstrable threat to the safety of those customers. I would hope that, if the situation is indeed as the hon. Gentleman has described, the manufacturer would take note of his remarks and act accordingly. I shall ask the relevant Minister to look at the case that he has described. If he would like to write to me with the details, I will happily pass them on to the relevant Department, and let us see whether we can get the appropriate action.
My right hon. Friend was the longest-serving Europe Minister, and I have a familiar question for him—about Cyprus. May we have a statement, following the new Minister’s visit to Cyprus this week, which coincides with the three meetings taking place this week between the Cypriot leaders and with President Anastasiades saying the “end of the road” has been reached and it is time to reunite Cyprus?
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas would be delighted to talk to my hon. Friend about his recent visit to the island. I think all of us across the Floor of the House want to see the day when Cyprus can be reunited and the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities brought together again. That would be a really good day for the United Kingdom. I think there will be an opportunity to raise this at the next Foreign Office questions, but a conversation between my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister is probably the best immediate way forward.
Yesterday, the BBC reported that Katrina Percy, the ex-chief executive of the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is being investigated because of the lack of investigation into unexplained deaths at the trust, had resigned from her post but was then shunted into a £240,000-a-year job, which was created just for her, with no other candidates. May we have an urgent debate in Government time on this very worrying decision?
Health provision is hugely important to Solihull, as to all other constituencies, with an ageing population and particular acute health needs. Given that, may we have a debate in Government time about the NHS in the west midlands, and particularly the mergers of clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts that are serving my constituency?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. He is already, in his first year in the House, building a reputation as somebody who really does stand up for good health services and the interests of patients in the west midlands. When we have Health questions on Tuesday 11 October, he will have an opportunity to make some of these points to the ministerial team.
Newham Council’s application under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 to control fixed odds betting terminals, alongside 92 other councils representing 42% of the population of England and Wales, expired on 14 July. The Act says that the Government have to compromise with the Local Government Association in these negotiations, but no debates have taken place. When will we get a statement on this important issue for a huge proportion of the country?
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Attorney General to make a statement about appealing against unduly lenient sentences? A number of people, including some of my constituents who have contacted me about this, felt that the sentence given to Anjem Choudary was derisory, given the serious level of the offences that he had committed. Today, we found out in the newspapers that the Attorney General is unable to appeal against an unduly lenient sentence for that crime. We promised in our manifesto to extend the number of crimes that could be appealed with regard to unduly lenient sentences, so will the Attorney General come to the House and explain when we are going to crack on with it?
As my hon. Friend points out, the Government were elected on a manifesto that pledged us to extend the list of crimes that were covered by the right of the Attorney General to refer an excessively lenient sentence to the Court of Appeal. Work on that is ongoing. As soon as it is completed, either the Attorney General or the relevant Justice Minister will come forward with a statement to the House.
The Petitions Committee has already agreed, after an evidence session, that the petition on driven grouse shooting will have a parliamentary debate. There is also a petition on the badger cull that has about 40,000 signatures and will, I am sure, reach the 100,000 required. Given that when we had a debate on the badger cull in Westminster Hall this week, over 40 MPs were in attendance and lots of people wanted to watch the debate but were unable to fit into the Public Gallery, can we ensure that both those debates are held in the main Chamber, so that people can come along and watch and that there is sufficient room and time for MPs to take part?
There is always a pressure that Government business managers, and the Chair and members of the Backbench Business Committee, have to wrestle with about which matters are debated in Westminster Hall and which are debated here in the Chamber. The hon. Lady will have an additional opportunity to raise this on Thursday 13 October when Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be answering questions here.
I know that the Leader of the House is very aware of the anxiety caused in Corby by the ongoing discussions about the future of the steel industry. May we have a statement next week from Ministers to update my constituents on exactly where we are with those discussions between the industry, the Department and the unions?
I will make sure that the Business Secretary and the International Trade Secretary are aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns. I certainly understand the importance of the steel issue for his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said during her statement on the G20 yesterday that she had raised the question of over-production on global markets in the plenary session of the G20 leaders while she had been in China and that she hoped that that would lead to the international powers considering a way forward to manage this.
The Leader of the House is very popular in my constituency, and my constituents have asked me to ask him this question. Whether they voted for Brexit or voted to remain, they want to know why, if this is a sovereign Parliament, after all the negotiations have taken place and they can see the deal, Parliament cannot have a vote. Because they love him so much, they would also like a debate on the closure of the accident and emergency department in Huddersfield. In addition, with the landfill tax going up to £85 across West Yorkshire, unscrupulous waste contractors are setting fire to waste, to save money. May we have debates on all those subjects?
On waste management, the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to raise that at DEFRA questions on 13 October. On his local health issue, there are questions to Health Ministers on Tuesday 11 October. As somebody who, as the House knows, was strongly on the remain side of the campaign, I have to say that, if we are democrats, we must, however reluctantly, accept the result. Had the result been 52-48 the other way round, I would have been the first to say to my colleagues supporting the leave campaign that it was time to fold their tents. We simply have to respect the view that the electors have taken.
As I am sure the whole House will be aware, this weekend the world black pudding throwing championships are taking place in Ramsbottom in my constituency. They date back to the Wars of the Roses. May we have a statement on what the Government will be doing to promote this prestigious and historic event in future?
For a moment, I thought that my hon. Friend was going to propose this as an experimental sport for the Tokyo Olympics in four years’ time. I envy him his round of constituency engagements. He has made his point very forcefully, as usual. I hope that he gets the chance to sample the black puddings before they are thrown rather than afterwards.
While giving evidence to the Procedure Committee, on which I serve, the Leader of the House’s predecessor offered to visit a local pub in my constituency to discuss the intricacies of English votes for English laws with my constituents. In the event, he did not do so—much to the great disappointment of my constituents. Will the new Leader of the House use his good offices to visit my constituency to discuss English votes for English laws with my constituents in his place?
It is a delight to have such a tempting offer from the hon. Lady. Of course, her constituency, like many others in Scotland, contains vibrant communities and some absolutely wonderful landscapes. While I would hope to able to visit North Ayrshire and Arran at some stage in the future, I cannot give any firm diary commitment at the moment.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement that there will be a debate in Westminster Hall on the Government’s tobacco control programme. The issue at hand is that the control programme that was running for five years has expired, and we were promised a replacement in the summer of 2016. I realise that the summer can stretch into the autumn, but we still do not have the new programme published. The Government have met the targets that they set themselves under the five-year programme. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that the Minister announces the date for publication during the debate and that it is also announced in this place?
Will the Leader of the House look again at the time allocated for questions to the new Department for International Trade? I do not think that he was in his place this morning when we had half an hour for questions to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and then half an hour for questions to the new International Trade Department. Almost 50 oral and substantive questions were listed on the Order Paper for a one-hour period, whereas a normal one-hour slot would have only about 35. Despite his huge experience, the Speaker had to make heroic efforts to try to squeeze everybody in, and even then the session overran by 10 minutes. Surely, we can do better than this, given the importance of international trade post-Brexit.
Further to the question from the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law), I have also been contacted over the summer by hundreds of single women who have been affected by the behaviour of Concentrix. Yesterday I received a written parliamentary answer saying that the contractor had breached its performance standards on 120 occasions over the past 11 months. May we have an urgent debate about the behaviour and performance of this contractor, so that it cannot continue for another day to punish individuals, particularly single women?
Clearly, the state of affairs and the number of contract breaches described by the hon. Lady are completely unacceptable. She might want to write to the Financial Secretary, who is probably the appropriate Treasury Minister, to ensure that her constituents’ concerns are being represented directly to those Ministers dealing directly with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, but it seems to me that it is the responsibility first of the HMRC senior management to manage the contract effectively and of the contractor to deliver a decent service to the hon. Lady’s constituents and everybody else’s.
May I associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes)? The decision by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was greeted with a fit of apoplexy in my constituency in the New Forest.
May we have a debate on the scandalous, enduring and rigged duopoly of the wholesale newspaper distribution market and the disastrous consequences it has for independent retailers?
My right hon. Friend is obviously returning with relish and energy to his role as a Back-Bench champion, particularly for small retailers in his constituency. I am sure he knows the ropes well enough to know that an Adjournment debate might be the opportunity to air those concerns further.
I was recently contacted by a constituent of mine, Mrs Jones, when she discovered that her E.ON energy account had a standing charge of 14p per day higher than that of other constituents. E.ON tells me that it is entitled to charge a higher rate to those who do not pay their accounts by direct debit, but that amounts to more than £50 a year for people who do not have bank accounts, who are often some of the poorest people in society. May we have a debate about ending that very unfair and penalising practice?
May I strongly endorse what the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) said about the extraordinary decision of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust to create a post with a salary greater than that of the Prime Minister to accommodate someone whose position as chief executive had become untenable?
May I ask for a ministerial statement on the plight of Afghan and other former interpreters for British armed forces in hostile environments who have applied for but not yet been given asylum in this country? That is not only a debt of honour, but necessary for the future functioning of British troops in hostile environments where we are greatly dependent on indigenous interpreters.
My right hon. Friend raises an important point. Clearly it is a very important principle that all asylum decisions are taken on the merits of each particular case. That is true of applications from former interpreters as well as those from everybody else. It is also the case, however, that both the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office continue to review the overall situation in order to ensure that we are providing protection to people who have helped to protect us. My right hon. Friend will, I think, be pleased to know that there will be Defence questions next Monday 12 September, and he may wish to raise the issue with Defence Ministers then.
May we have a statement on reports that emerged over the summer that the Government Equality Office has awarded G4S the contract to deliver the equality advisory support service helpline formerly provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission? Hon. Members have long expressed concerns about the performance of G4S in relation to public contracts. The matter is urgent. I understand that the contract is due to take effect from 1 October, so can the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made to the House on the subject next week?
Parliamentary scrutiny of Sports Direct has helped employees get a better deal from a rogue employer. May we have a debate on how a good increase in the minimum wage leads to some employers cutting back terms and conditions for their staff, resulting in a net reduction in pay? That cannot be right.
It is certainly not right, but I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman might at least have acknowledged that in setting the first ever national living wage, it is this Government who have lifted, very considerably, the minimum levels of pay that low-paid employees around the country can now expect.
The right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) asked the Leader of the House what progress has been made in setting up Select Committees to scrutinise the new Departments for Exiting the European Union and for International Trade. He said that discussions are ongoing, but when we get back here on 10 October it will be more than three and a half months since the referendum. We have had very little detail this week of what the Government propose to do, and I—like lots of other hon. Members, I am sure—am being inundated with requests from businesses and individuals in my constituency, asking what the Government are going to do in the light of the vote. Can the Leader of the House guarantee that, when we return on 10 October, those Select Committees will be in a position to get up and running and to scrutinise those Departments to try to get the answers that we have not had this week?
May we have a debate on the performance of Southeastern trains? The Government have put £20 million into trying to sort out the mess of Southern trains, but my constituents are suffering equally due to the poor performance of a company that is behaving like it has one foot out of the door because it can see the prospect of Transport for London taking over the franchise. We cannot continue in this way. The Government are responsible for the contract, so let us have a debate about it in Government time.
My constituent, Mr Adamson of Bo’ness, is, like other sufferers of Dupuytren’s contracture, waiting for a decision from the Department for Work and Pensions. In repeated parliamentary written answers, we are fobbed off with promises of a decision being reached in due course or shortly. On 12 January, I was advised that
“a decision whether or not to add it to the list of prescribed diseases will be made early this year”.
As we are still waiting, may we have a ministerial statement to explain the delay and bring the deliberations to a conclusion?
The Leader of the House and I have something in common, in that we were both once contestants on “University Challenge”. If we were able to have a debate on enhancing democracy, how would he answer this starter for 10? Under what school of political logic do we enhance democracy by cutting the number of elected politicians and increasing the number of unelected peers?
As I said to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), I wish that there had been consensus on reform of the House of Lords in the previous Parliament, but that consensus was absent, and we are where we are. I doubt that opinion across the House of Commons has changed all that much since that abortive attempt at reform a few years ago.
The answer to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) is that he really cannot evade the central point that we are now operating on electoral registers based on a census taken in 2001. They are very out of date, given the population changes that have taken place since then. It is also plainly wrong to continue with a situation in which constituency electorates are of such disparate sizes. That in practice means that there is gross inequality between the weight of votes of individual electors in different seats.
In June this year, my constituent John “Richie” Anderson, a miner for 35 years, was killed by a gas blowout at Boulby potash mine. In August, a contract worker was electrocuted with 11 MW while doing surface work at the same mine. Back in April, 11 miners escaped with their lives after the oxygen ran out in a safety zone because of an underground fire. The Health and Safety Executive has investigated the mine on a number of occasions in the past 12 months. Some of those 11 miners have had to return to work with clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder because the sick pay of just over £80 a week is not enough to cover the cost of feeding a wife and children. Can we have a debate about health and safety law and the implications of workers having to return to work because sick pay is not adequate, when companies have accepted liability for the danger that they have placed their workers in?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing that serious matter to the House. I express my sympathy with his constituents who have gone through this horrific experience, and with their families. The matter that he raises crosses the border between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Work and Pensions, in respect of benefits and sickness pay arrangements. I will draw this question to the attention of Ministers in both Departments. He might also like to raise it at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions, when it comes up, or seek an Adjournment debate so that there can be a consolidated ministerial response from across Government to address his concerns.
Around three people a day die because of a shortage of transplantable organs. Earlier this week, brave Renfrewshire mum Corinne Hutton, a quadruple amputee, posed nude with her body painted with organs that are deemed to be transplantable. Does the Leader of the House agree that Corinne, whom I recently witnessed becoming only the fourth person to be awarded the freedom of Renfrewshire, is an inspiring woman whose lead we should follow by debating organ donation?
The hon. Gentleman has used today’s opportunity well to highlight his support for organ donation. I, too, know constituents who have been given not only a longer life, but a life of unexpectedly improved quality because of a successful organ transplant. I am sure that he can find many ways in which to highlight the matter during parliamentary proceedings.