Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 17 October—Second Reading of the Savings (Government Contributions) Bill.
Tuesday 18 October—Debate on the BBC on a Government motion.
Wednesday 19 October—Opposition day (9th allotted day). There will be a debate on an SNP motion, subject to be announced.
Thursday 20 October—Debate on a motion on BHS, followed by a general debate on industrial strategy. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 21 October—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 24 October will include:
Monday 24 October—Second Reading of the Health Services Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill.
Tuesday 25 October—Opposition day (10th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.
Wednesday 26 October—Consideration of Lords amendments.
Thursday 27 October—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 28 October—Private Members’ Bills.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for October and early November will be:
Monday 17 October—Debate on e-petitions relating to the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Thursday 20 October—Debate on the Education Committee reports on mental health and well-being of looked-after children and on social work reform, followed by a general debate on National Arthritis Week 2016.
Monday 24 October—Debate on an e-petition relating to the local government pension scheme.
Thursday 27 October—Debate on the Defence Committee reports on defence expenditure and the use of Lariam for military personnel.
Monday 31 October—Debate on an e-petition relating to driven grouse shooting.
Thursday 3 November—General debate on the future of the steel industry.
I thank the Leader of the House for his warm welcome and for the time he took to speak to me about this role. I also thank my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), for all his hard work in the two jobs that he undertook.
It is the first week back, and there is a crisis. This morning I received a text—an upgrade from an email—from a Jeremy, who says, “We want our Marmite back”, so will the Leader of the House do all he can to make sure that there is Marmite on the shelves? I say to Jeremy: “Cut back on the salt, and if you want to protest, do not sit on the floor and shave your beard!”
It is the first week back, and it has been a bad week for the Government. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s honeymoon period, most of which was in the Swiss Alps in the recess, came to an end as she faced her first Government defeat in the other place, which voted through new laws to compensate phone-hacking victims. Quite rightly in the age of legal aid cutbacks, victims should have access to justice and protected costs.
May we have a debate to clarify the policy of the Home Secretary’s proposals for firms to provide a list of foreign workers whom they employ? The Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s Question Time that that was not what was said, so why did more than 100 business leaders write an open letter to the Home Secretary, calling for the idea to be abandoned, saying that foreign workers should be “celebrated not demonised”? The Government may have back-tracked on the policy, just a week after it was outlined, but we need clarification that it is obsolete. If the Leader of the House went back to his alma mater, the University of Cambridge, he would know that the new Vice-Chancellor is, in fact, Canadian, so would he have to be reported to the Home Secretary? It is the anniversary of the battle of Hastings on Friday—it took place 950 years ago—so this reversal could be seen as one in the eye for the Home Secretary.
At the Conservatives’ annual conference, the Chancellor announced a U-turn on six years of Government policy. You will know, Mr Speaker, that at the time of the party conference, the pound fell—and it is still falling. Since last week, we have seen a loss of 6% against the dollar—usually a headline associated with the Labour party. The Chancellor also said that he is cancelling the plan of the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne) to balance the nation’s books by 2020. Instead, the Government will invest their way out of the deficit and would now borrow to invest. That sounds remarkably like the Opposition’s policy. May we have statement immediately, before the autumn statement in November, on what is being done at the Treasury on the state of the pound?
So this Government are not the Government of business, not the Government of sound fiscal policy and not the Government of the vulnerable. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions now says that people with severe, lifelong conditions will no longer face those humiliating six-monthly reassessments—but only those claiming employment and support allowance; claimants of the personal independence payment will still be subject to those inappropriate assessments. Bizarrely, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), welcomed this “progressive” reform of the retesting regime, although he introduced the assessments and they were voted for by Conservative Members. May we have a debate in Government time on the state of the assessments and their removal, as called for by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams)?
This is our first week back after the conference recess, and there have been no votes. The first was scheduled for the Opposition day yesterday, but the Government conceded the Opposition’s motion, which basically asked for Parliament to be sovereign. We want our sovereignty back. That was all that was being asked for—making Parliament sovereign in any negotiations that affect the British people.
The referendum posed a simple question: in or out. It did not cover immigration, and it did not cover the single market. All that has to be negotiated and put to the British people through their elected representatives. The great repeal Bill, which will feature in the next Queen’s Speech, will deal only with the incorporation of EU laws in domestic law. May we have a debate in Government time on the framework of the negotiating stance, given that there are only five months—and 170 unanswered questions—before article 50 is invoked?
I know that the Leader of the House is keen to restore Parliament’s reputation. On Tuesday, he will have seen Parliament at her best—as will you, Mr Speaker, when you were in the Chair—and I am sure he will agree with me that it was incredible to see members of all parties present petitions as part of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign for fair transitional arrangements, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley). My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) put the figure at roughly £2 billion. Given the strength of feeling among all our constituents throughout the United Kingdom, may we have a statement to do justice to the WASPI women?
May we also have a debate on the report “The Good Parliament” by Dr Sarah Childs, which recommends making Parliament user-friendly to men, women, families and those with disabilities, and could that debate be consolidated with the debate that is to be held on restoration and renewal?
You will have noted, Mr Speaker, that peace has broken out—in Colombia. I congratulate its President, Juan Manuel Santos, on a hard-won peace, and on his Nobel peace prize. We look forward to his visit on 1 November.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that she was speaking for the British people who voted to leave. Well, that amounts to just 51.9%, because 48.1% voted to remain and 28% did not vote at all. If the Prime Minister is representing only 51.9%, my colleagues—each and every one of them, with their talents and skills—are ready to serve all the British people.
I warmly welcome the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) to her new responsibilities. I am sure that she will bring to the role the wit and good humour, as well as the commitment to the House, that we have grown to expect of her during her time here. Let me also thank and pay tribute to her predecessor, the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), for his service. He is the living embodiment of the principle that age is nothing but a number. Throughout his parliamentary career, he has continued to express his views, and to speak on behalf of his constituents and his party, with all the passion and commitment that brought him into politics in the first place.
The hon. Lady made various points about work and pensions matters. The Government will, of course, respond in the way that they normally do to petitions that Members present to the House, and Members in all parts of the House will have an opportunity to put questions to DWP Ministers about their responsibilities as early as next Monday, when DWP questions will take place.
I think that the hon. Lady tempted providence slightly when she talked about honeymoons. I have yet to see the Leader of the Opposition’s honeymoon even begin, let alone end.
I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will have sympathy for the hon. Lady’s call to restore our Marmite. The best advice I can give her, in relation to her email correspondent, is to advise Jeremy that a number of own-brand yeast extracts will be available during the current commercial dispute between the wholesaler and the retailer, and I am confident that in an area such as Islington there will be a wealth of traditional and organic alternatives available to the discerning customer.
I shall now touch on some of the other points that the hon. Lady raised. I shall take back and reflect on the points she made about a debate on the Childs report, “The Good Parliament”, and whether it would be appropriate to link that to the debate that we are going to have on the restoration and renewal report in due course. I know that the Select Committee on Women and Equalities is looking into the implications of “The Good Parliament” report as part of its own work at the moment. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) and the Leader of the Opposition gave evidence to that Committee on some of those matters earlier this week.
The hon. Lady raised questions about foreign workers. The position on this is perfectly clear. The Government have made it plain that there is no question of naming individual employees or trying to shame companies, but it is not unreasonable for the Government to go out to consultation—which is what is being planned—on whether firms should be asked to supply evidence about the proportion of their workforce that is made up of workers from outside the UK. For one thing, that might be a way of providing independent evidence about labour shortages and informing the Government’s approach to what we and British industry might do address that issue. This system already operates in the United States of America, after all, so I do not think that a consultation of that sort is unreasonable in the way that she suggests.
The hon. Lady also asked about European matters. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), said yesterday during his speech, and I reiterate today, that we will make Government time available for debates on the European Union on the Floor of the House. At the moment, we are considering exactly when that will happen and what form those debates might take. I was glad that the Opposition accepted the Government amendment yesterday, but before the hon. Lady gives lectures on democracy, she really needs to have a word with some of her shadow Cabinet colleagues. I yield to no one in my open support for the remain cause during the referendum, but if we are democrats, we have to accept the outcome. It remains the case that, as recently as 11 September, the shadow Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), said on “The Murnaghan Programme” that that was not enough. She said:
“I think that we have to have some form of democratic, an injection of democracy in some way…I think we need to go back to the British people in some way”.
That is at odds with the message that came from the Opposition Front Bench yesterday about the Opposition accepting the referendum outcome, whatever view any of us took during the campaign. So I hope that we will see greater consistency from the Opposition in future.
May we have an early debate on gravy trains? That would give us the opportunity to look at the latest jobs on offer at HS2, namely the position of chief executive, which will pay between £700,000 and £800,000 a year, and posts for four recent graduates, which offer salaries of up to about £30,000. Those graduates would be required to
“write the story of HS2 from inception to the present day”.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House and the Speaker would agree with me that our constituents would not consider that a good use of taxpayers’ money. What success has the Leader of the House had in persuading HS2 and the Department for Transport that spending money on writing their version of “Thomas the Tank Engine” is not exactly enhancing their reputations?
When this report reached Transport Ministers, they immediately issued instructions to cancel the advertisement and approach this matter in a different way. Undoubtedly, there are lessons to be learned from the history of HS2 up till now, but my right hon. Friend will share the view of the Transport Secretary that the approach that she has described was not the best use of taxpayers’ money.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) on her appointment. She comes to her position as a well-liked and respected individual, and I certainly look forward to working with her. I wish also to pay a short tribute to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn). To go from two jobs to no jobs is pretty callous, so let us get a petition together to get the hon. Gentleman restored to the Front Bench. The hon. Member for Walsall South is the fourth shadow Leader of the House in my short tenure here. I hope that her position is a little more durable than that of some of her illustrious predecessors.
Who would have thought that the first casualty of this hard Brexit would be the nation’s supplies of Marmite? The catastrophic collapse in the pound has led to an unseemly spat between Tesco and Unilever, which seems to suggest that even our supplies of PG Tips might be threatened. As I was sitting around with a morning brew, I thought that perhaps it was time to reconsider and rethink this plan for a full English Brexit. Perhaps we could consider a more palatable continental Brexit instead.
We need an urgent statement about the position of European nationals in this country. A number of my constituents who are EU nationals are getting increasingly anxious and concerned about some of the anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric that has emerged from the Conservative party in the past few weeks. They want to be reassured that their status is secure. All this talk about lists, closed or not, and about having their position in this country relegated to little more than bargaining chips, is setting off all sorts of alarm bells.
We learned next to nothing about the Tory Brexit plans yesterday, other than the fact that it is the hard right of the Conservative party who are now in charge of the agenda. I support the calls to have full debates on this matter. We owe it to our constituents to ensure that they are properly consulted and involved in the process. I am grateful to the Leader of the House for announcing that further details will be forthcoming. Perhaps he could tell us a little bit more about them just now.
It is great to be back after the conference recess. The reason that I cut such a lonely figure on these Benches this morning is that our conference actually starts today, which makes the idea of a conference recess almost totally pointless. Will the Leader of the House have another look at this again? If we are to have a conference recess, can it please include all the main parties of this House or none of them at all?
l will certainly take on board the hon. Gentleman’s last point about party conferences, although, as he will know, all parties fix the dates and book the venues of their conferences several years ahead, so this is not something on which I can offer hope of change in the immediate future.
On his serious point about EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, I will respond by saying two things. First, people who have come lawfully from other European countries and who are living here, working here and contributing to our society in many different positive ways should be both welcomed and respected. We should have no truck whatever with xenophobic language let alone with tolerance of some of the appalling instances of abuse or even physical attacks that we have seen. Those should be deplored and condemned by people from all political parties, and by people who were active on both sides of the referendum campaign.
Secondly, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear more than once that her objective is to secure an agreement that enables people who are already in the United Kingdom lawfully to remain after we leave the EU. She would be keen to get agreement on that at an early stage of the exit negotiations. The only thing that we can see that would stop that happening would be if, for some reason, it were not possible to persuade the other 27 countries that British citizens on their territory should not be accorded similar rights. It ought to be in everyone’s interests to settle this definitively and early on, and I hope that we are able to achieve that.
I do not want to dwell too much on Marmite; I am sure that there is as much appetite for that product in Scotland as there is anywhere else in the United Kingdom. I simply note that, on the information that I have been given this morning, the ingredients of Marmite are not imported into the UK but are manufactured and supplied here. It is probably not for the Government to intervene in what seems to be a dispute between two commercial companies.
The Government have done extremely well in making their announcement about the disapplication of aspects of the European convention on human rights from the battlefield in future conflicts. This has been welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, not least by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) who, with fellow members of the Defence Sub-Committee and other hon. Members, has focused attention on this important issue in a tremendous campaign. When will the Government make further announcements, not about protecting people in future conflicts, but about protecting people who currently face pursuit in the courts over past and present conflicts?
Following the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary a few days ago, the Government, led by the Ministry of Defence, are actively looking at the measures that we would need to take to give effect to this policy. Legislative change might be required, in which case we shall have to prepare such legislation and bring it forward as early as we can, when there is an appropriate legislative opportunity.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and the news that next week we will be debating British Home Stores and the impact on its former work force. There will also be a general debate on industrial strategy, which is long overdue. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for notice that Thursday 27 October will be a full day for Backbench Business Committee debates; we had understood that it would be a part day.
May I ask Members bringing applications to the Committee for specific dates to give us a number of weeks’ notice? This afternoon, for instance, we have a debate on baby loss, which has been secured with the advance agreement of the Leader of the House, but we were able to do that only because we had advance notice. This week, of course, is baby loss awareness week.
Members may have noticed that the occupation of these particular Benches has been a bit thin in the past few weeks, and this week in particular. It is because my hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) and for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell) are both undergoing treatment as they battle their illnesses. I wish them, on behalf of the House, a speedy recovery.
On behalf of the Government and my right hon. and hon. Friends, I join the hon. Gentleman in wishing a speedy restoration to health to the hon. Members for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) and for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell).
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he says. We always try to give as much notice as possible to him and his Committee. I should issue a word of caution about Thursday 27 October, however. The Government’s current intention is that half a day will be allocated to the Backbench Business Committee. As I said in my statement, the business for that week is provisional at this stage; I will be able to speak with much more certainty next week.
Given that I was born and brought up in Burton upon Trent, I feel that I should be talking about Marmite—after all, that is where it is made—but I am going to talk about buses. In July, I supported Arriva’s “catch the bus” week. Only a matter of weeks later, Arriva announced that it was axing services, including the No. 3 bus to Norton Canes, leaving elderly residents who are reliant on that service completely cut off and unable to catch a bus. May we have a debate in Government time about the importance of bus services to the health and wellbeing of elderly residents?
My hon. Friend is a fierce champion for the communities in her constituency on bus services, as on other matters, and I hope that she will have the opportunity to make her case directly to Arriva, as the local bus provider, and to the relevant local authority about whether it can provide any kind of subsidy to bus services that are essential socially, but that are not viable in strictly economic terms. The Government want a diverse mix of public transport provision—bus and rail services, and other kinds—and I am sure that if she wants to put her case in detail to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, he and his team will look carefully at the concerns that she expresses.
The Care Quality Commission has said today that it is becoming concerned about the fragility of the adult social care market, with evidence suggesting that it might be approaching a tipping point. May we have an urgent debate about the crisis in social care funding? Only on Tuesday I raised with the Secretary of State for Health the fact that local authorities must be properly funded for social care.
All hon. Members, on whichever side of the House they sit, certainly understand the importance to their constituents of ensuring that NHS services and local authority social care are organised and managed in a way that looks to the constituent—to the client or patient—first of all, and that budgets are organised and commissioning takes place to try to ensure there is as much support for the needs of the individual as possible. I had the chance this morning to look briefly at the Care Quality Commission’s report. What struck me was that it says that 72% of adult social care services, 87% of GP practices and 56% of the core services of NHS hospital trusts have been rated as either good or outstanding. It does point to challenges that need to be addressed and argues that less-well-performing authorities need to learn from the experience of those that are more successful. It seems to me that the commission is doing its job as an independent inspectorate, but what it has actually found is that the quality of care that most people receive in this country is very good.
Constituents in Potters Bar, Borehamwood and Radlett in my constituency rely on Govia Thameslink railways. They are used to endless excuses for its lamentable performance, but the company reached a new low yesterday, when we discovered that it is cancelling trains if it discovers graffiti that it deems offensive. Does the Leader of the House agree that that is completely absurd? Is there some mechanism for the House to convey to the company that its first priority should be getting passengers to work and home on time?
My hon. Friend is clearly campaigning very hard on behalf of his constituents. Some years ago, I used to live quite close to his constituency, so I am well aware of the importance of those commuter rail services to the people whom he represents. I suggest that his message to Govia should be to encourage it, yes, to put the need to provide for passengers first, but also to work more closely with its cleaning contractors and the transport police to ensure that trains are cleaned of offensive graffiti in a timely fashion and that the people responsible for the graffiti are identified and brought to justice.
I think that the Leader of the House went to school in Elstree, if memory serves me correctly.
May I join the Leader of the House in congratulating the shadow Leader of the House on her appointment? It has taken her only six years to get to the Front Bench; I am still in the same place I was 29 years ago. This is also my first opportunity to congratulate the Leader of the House on his appointment. I first met him 40 years ago, and indeed may well have voted for him to be chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association all that time ago.
Last week, 140 young Yemenis were killed in Sanaa, when bombs fell on a funeral cortège. Last night, Houthi rebels fired at warships owned by the Americans in the gulf of Aden. The situation in Yemen is deteriorating. We had an important debate on Syria that was well attended in the House and granted by you, Mr Speaker, but we must not allow Yemen to be the forgotten conflict. When can we have a full debate on the situation in Yemen, before it gets even worse?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words. I think that somewhere in my loft I have the programme card that lists him as a CUCA college secretary at some distant date in the past. He raises a really serious subject. Yemen is too often overlooked as we focus on the appalling situation in Syria. As he will, I think, know by now, he has obtained an Adjournment debate on Yemen on 18 October, which will enable him to raise some of these matters, and we have Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on 18 October, too, which will enable him and other colleagues to raise these matters with the Secretary of State and Foreign Office Ministers. I completely share the right hon. Gentleman’s view that the Government need to continue to do all that they can to help to support the UN special envoy for Yemen and his valiant efforts to establish a credible peace process, and to devote a decent slice of our humanitarian aid budget to helping people in desperate need in that country.
The Leader of the House will soon bring to the House a debate on the full decant of Parliament from the Palace of Westminster. He knows my views—I question the proposal—but that is not important; what is important is that we get a range of options. Will he consider, when he brings forward the debate, having not just one nuclear option—that we all leave for six years—but a range of options? For instance, one option could be that we start the work now, during the summer breaks, and we do so from 20 July to 12 October, either by abolishing the September sitting or, if that is not possible, holding it in Edinburgh, to buttress the Union, or Belfast or Cardiff. May we please have a full range of options? Sometimes in life, a Marmite solution that one loves or hates is not the best solution; sometimes a more nuanced approach is a better way of doing things.
As I said earlier, there will be, as recommended by the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, a debate and decision by this House, and separately by the House of Lords, on the proposals in the Committee’s report. I am giving thought to the precise wording of the motion to be tabled. Whatever the form of words used, the motion will be, subject to your ruling, Mr Speaker, capable of amendment. I am sure that hon. Members of all parties will want to look at the motion and see whether they want to change it in any way.
I hope that hon. Members take the time to read the Joint Committee’s report. It is a completely cross-party Committee. It spent a lot of time on the subject and interrogated a lot of witnesses before reaching its recommendations, and the House owes it to colleagues who served on the Committee to look seriously at the arguments and evidence that it has presented.
The Leader of the House just put a very complacent gloss on the Care Quality Commission report. This is our independent health and social care regulator. The report is devastating. It contains an explicit request, which is unprecedented from the commission, for urgent funds for social care now. That follows exactly the same call by the person whom the Government appointed to lead the NHS, Simon Stevens. When will we get an emergency statement from the Secretary of State for Health on what he will do about our collapsing health and social care sector?
I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman’s description of my earlier response. I not only had a look at the report this morning, but listened to the chief executive of the commission speaking on BBC radio, and it was he who said that the key lesson was that best practice needed to be copied by those authorities and NHS areas that were not delivering the best quality service at present. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will, of course, want to consider very carefully and urgently the views expressed in the Care Quality Commission’s report. I am sure he will want to make clear to the House in the relatively near future his view on its recommendations, and there will be opportunity at Health questions or otherwise to put questions to him.
In East Cowes, as well, no doubt, as elsewhere, the Homes and Communities Agency appears to have forgotten that its brief includes delivering much-needed business premises as well as homes, thus threatening economic development and island homes. Will the Leader of the House consider scheduling a debate on this issue?
I cannot promise a debate in Government time, but my hon. Friend has been in the House long enough to know that there may be opportunities by way of Adjournment debates or questions to Ministers that enable him to speak up on behalf of his constituents.
Figures show that one in five of my constituents are over-indebted, which is why I am bringing the Money Advice Service to Bristol South tomorrow to meet other local debt advice services and support them. May we have a debate on problem debt to help us to understand the Government’s position and their strategy for addressing this serious issue for working people?
We all have constituents who have benefited from debt advice, which is not always best provided by an agency that has “OHMS” stamped all over it. It is sometimes better provided through a voluntary organisation that is able to engage with people in a less rule-bound way than is usually the case with even the best-intentioned Government agencies. I will take back to my hon. Friends with ministerial responsibility the concern that the hon. Lady has expressed and ask the relevant Minister to write to her directly.
The National Citizen Service provides incredible opportunities for young people in Corby and east Northamptonshire, ably led by Nigel Anderson and his team at the University of the First Age. With the very welcome news that David Cameron is to take a greater role in the NCS programme going forward, may we have a debate next week on the terrific opportunities that that provides for young people across our country?
That is a cause that David Cameron championed during his time as Prime Minister and I am delighted that he is continuing his association with the cause afterwards. As my hon. Friend will know, earlier this week the Government introduced the National Citizen Service Bill, which will put the NCS on a statutory basis for the first time.
Yesterday I attended an event organised by the Gun Control Network to mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of measures for gun control following the Dunblane tragedy. Measures brought in at that time have made an enormous difference and have undoubtedly saved many lives. However, regrettably, people are still dying from gun use and gun ownership, and too often that is caused by licensed firearms. May we have a statement from the Government on their plans to continue to combat gun crime?
I know that the Home Office is looking at the legislation governing gun dealers, and that may go some way to address the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. It is right that we remind ourselves that police forces have an important responsibility to ensure that people who hold firearms licences legitimately store guns and ammunition in a secure and safe fashion, and that they are fit and responsible people to have such licences.
The Government have a policy of closing old Victorian prisons and replacing them with modern ones. Wellingborough prison, which is a reserve prison, is a modern one. May we have a statement next week from the Secretary of State for Justice on how that policy is working and, in particular, on what is happening to Wellingborough prison?
My hon. Friend will want to talk with the Prisons Minister about Wellingborough prison, but I am sure that the policy is the right one for our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to be pursuing. Not only are more modern prisons more cost-effective than maintaining prisons on what has become very valuable inner-city real estate, but they provide conditions for prisoners that are more secure and humane than those in the old-fashioned, Victorian prisons, which in some cases have lasted for far too long.
Many constituents have contacted me recently regarding visitor visa refusals for close relatives who want to visit their family. Most unsuccessful applicants have travelled to the UK previously on a visitor visa and ensured full compliance. May we have a debate in Government time so that we can look into the issue and find out why we appear suddenly to be having many more refusals, which are largely unexplained, than we did in previous years?
Those of us who deal with a significant amount of immigration casework in our constituencies will know that it is quite difficult to generalise about cases when the quality of evidence varies greatly. From my experience, I advise my constituents that it is really important to have the audit trail of evidence to show that there is a previous pattern of sticking to the terms of visas that have previously been granted, and also the best possible documentation to show that a potential visitor has good reasons to return home afterwards, such as family or job reasons.
The late Eric Forth used to have a description for early-day motions, but there is insufficient chastity in language to repeat it without offence. Nevertheless, may we have a statement from my right hon. Friend on the wholesale abuse and trivialisation of EDMs, not least by the Scottish National party?
My own view is that early-day motions are an overrated currency. I was somewhat surprised to see reports this morning that Scottish National party Members have been spending so much time tabling early-day motions, and on subjects ranging from Christmas trees to the anniversary of the first screening of “Star Trek”. They need to be a little careful, because a number of us are coming to the conclusion that they do not have enough work to do, and I think their constituents would be somewhat shocked to find that out.
I welcome the shadow Leader of the House to her post and acknowledge her reference to the peace in Colombia and the forthcoming visit by President Santos. In that context, will the Leader of the House ensure that he and his colleagues, who have in very valid terms ruled out a second referendum here, do not mistranslate that message, given the particular challenges in Colombia, because a second referendum might well be what they need following the national dialogue and other negotiations now in train?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have, for a long time and under successive British Governments, supported the efforts to try to bring about an end to the appalling conflict in Colombia. We welcome the courageous work President Santos has done to try to reach that agreement, and British Ministers are certainly not going to, in any way, seek to tell the President of Colombia how he should proceed in setting the final seal on an agreement that we all hope will endure.
Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Justice on the policy of allowing prisoners out to spend time with their families at Christmas? It seems from an answer to a parliamentary question that 973 prisoners were allowed home to spend time with their families last Christmas, including 61 murderers. I would have hoped that it went without saying that the victims of those murderers will never be able to spend Christmas at home with their families again. The Government might reflect on what the families of those victims must think when those murderers are allowed out to enjoy a family Christmas at home, when the victims will never have that experience again. The Government might tell prisoners that if they want to spend time at home with their families at Christmas they should not commit the crimes in the first place that get them sent to prison.
I will certainly draw the Justice Secretary’s attention to the point my hon. Friend has made, but I would just add this: all but a very small number of prisoners are going to be released one day, either at the end of the sentence or on life licence. It is not unreasonable, in the context of people who are approaching the end of a sentence, to be looking at ways in which to make it possible for them to adjust to society outside prison and to earn a living, take family responsibility and, hopefully, pursue a better path at that point. Where my hon. Friend is absolutely right is that such a step needs to be looked at in the context of overall sentence planning, and should not be a way in which to soften the necessity for the punitive aspect of a prison sentence, which the public rightly expect judges and the Prison Service to see enforced.
In response to the crisis in the steel industry, the Government produced some better procurement guidelines. It would appear that those have not yet reached the Ministry of Defence, which is using French steel to build Trident submarines. May we have a statement by the Business Secretary on how those procurement guidelines are affecting the steel industry in a positive way and how he will move the Ministry of Defence’s marks up from E minus to alpha plus?
We do source British steel wherever possible, but in this case there was no viable UK bid for the specialised steel required for this particular part of the Successor submarine manufacture. Other stages of construction will include steel that British suppliers can support, and we expect them to take the opportunity to bid. As with every major Government procurement, we are working hard to ensure that, where we can, we source British steel. We expect about 85% of the BAE Systems supply chain for the new submarines to be based in the UK.
May we have a debate in Government time on long-term funding for health and social care and on the way in which we raise that funding? There was an interesting leader in The Times yesterday on that subject, which made some suggestions, but it is vital that we take the opportunity now to look at how things move forward post-2020, given the Government’s welcome support up to that point.
It will be important, as we move towards 2020, to see the NHS making best possible use of the extra £10 billion the Government have allocated to it—£2 billion more than the NHS itself had requested—but also for the NHS to deliver on the internal reforms that the chief executive has said he intends and needs to carry out. I am sure my hon. Friend will find an opportunity to raise some of these wider questions about future funding with Health Ministers, either at questions or perhaps through a Westminster Hall debate.
May we have a debate on the political and security situation in Kashmir? As my right hon. Friend will be aware, there has been a serious escalation in violence there in recent weeks, which is understandably a matter of great concern to those with a Kashmiri heritage not just in my constituency but right across the country.
My hon. Friend may well have the opportunity to raise this matter directly with the Foreign Secretary at Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on Tuesday. I share his wish to see an end to the violence in Kashmir, which has continued for far too long. That will in the end depend on the readiness of the Governments of both India and Pakistan to hammer out an agreement with which they both feel able to live.
I offer warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), whose talents have at last been recognised. Her appointment guarantees that the exchanges between the shadow Leader of the House and the Leader of the House will continue to be a very welcome oasis of political restraint, good sense and good humour.
When can we debate the royal prerogative and the supreme duty of the sovereign to act in the interests of the nation when a Government start to act in their own interests rather than those of the nation? Now that there is a certain Brexit crisis ahead—and given that we should judge the value of the referendum on the basis that it was won by deceptions, exaggerations and lies from both parties—how will the Leader of the House handle the situation if, in the service of the nation and in the service of the will of the democratic majority of this House, a decision is taken to withdraw the royal prerogatives delegated by the sovereign? What will he do in such a situation, if the sovereign is acting in the service of the nation?
I do not want to say anything that could prejudice court proceedings under way today that touch on precisely the issues the hon. Gentleman raises. However, when I looked at the Hansard report of yesterday’s debate, I found that the issues of prerogative powers and the rights of Parliament were aired at considerable length and I am sure that that will continue as we find other opportunities to debate the European issue in the months to come.
Services to my constituents provided by North East Lincolnshire Council may well suffer in the near future because the council has been forced to make safe and to maintain a listed building, to the tune of £2 million and rising, after the owners abrogated their responsibilities. Will the Government find time for a debate to consider whether legislative changes are required to avoid this happening again?
I cannot offer my hon. Friend a debate in Government time. If he would like to put some of the detail in a note to me, I will draw it to the attention of the relevant Minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport so that he can have a comprehensive response.
Today is Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day. May we have a debate on the support given to people living with secondary breast cancer, given that Breast Cancer Care’s campaign “Secondary, not Second Rate” has found that people living with this incurable disease face poor care, delayed diagnosis and a lack of information and support?
A half-hour debate on cancer diagnosis in Westminster Hall on Tuesday may provide the opportunity for an intervention, but the hon. Lady has done the House a service by reminding us of the importance of this issue. I am sure we would all wish to support the work the cancer charities are doing to highlight the importance of secondary breast cancer to ensure that that challenge is not overlooked, and that we would all wish to support both the research on causes and cures, and the work going on to support those who have to live with secondary breast cancer and their families.
Given the Government’s excellent support for keeping fit, healthy and active, may we have a debate on the possible closure of sports centres, such as the one in Knighton in my constituency, which provides fantastic facilities on a cross-border basis, but is sadly under the threat of closure by the local authority?
I am sorry to learn about what is happening in my hon. Friend’s constituency. These decisions are sometimes a matter for the local authorities involved. If he will let me have the details, I will ask the Sports Minister to respond to him. He may also like to seek an Adjournment debate, where he can secure a ministerial reply in open session of the House.
I declare an interest as an affected resident. Many of my constituents, and hundreds if not thousands of people across the country, have had their summer ruined again. They cannot sit in their gardens and cannot even open their windows. Why? Wagons carrying rotten carcases, emitting a horrendous stench, travel up and down our roads and past people’s homes. May we have a debate in Government time on the need for sealed wagons to control the stench that is given off by the rotten corpses of animals and other meat products, or should we bring containers of rotten meat here, because if it is good enough for my constituents to inhale, perhaps it is good enough for this House?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter on behalf of his constituents. I confess that it is not a subject with which I am familiar. It strikes me that it is likely to involve the responsibilities of a number of Departments. My advice to him is to look for opportunities to raise it with the relevant Ministers at questions or to secure an Adjournment debate, so that he can get a direct response from Ministers to the concerns his constituents are expressing.
More than 65,000 people are employed in the British nuclear industry, and I am delighted that more than a fifth of that workforce are women. May we have a debate on the importance of the nuclear sector to our economy, particularly considering the looming energy gap, and on how we can support nuclear through continued investment in skills, infrastructure and the supply chain? It would be particularly pertinent, given the recent announcement on Hinkley Point C.
I very much welcome the hon. Lady’s support for the nuclear industry. I share her view that nuclear has an important part to play in this country, as it already has in France, as part of the overall energy mix to ensure that we have supplies of fuel that are as clean as possible and reliable. The nuclear industry provides many opportunities for high-skilled and relatively well-paid employment, often in parts of the country where such jobs are very scarce indeed. Although I cannot promise her an early debate in Government time, I think her comments will have struck a chord with hon. Members in all parts of the House.
On Monday, there was a written statement from the Ministry of Defence on protecting our soldiers overseas from the legal process. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence today highlighted how we should be looking after our soldiers who are under that process. In Northern Ireland, we are just about to start a process for some people who are being hauled back, quite possibly for political reasons. May we please have a statement by Ministers from the three Departments together—Defence, Northern Ireland and Justice—to ensure that our servicemen are treated fairly?
Clearly, in all parts of the United Kingdom, decisions about individual prosecutions and court cases are rightly the province of independent prosecuting authorities. I am uneasy about the idea that Governments should intervene to either initiate or stop a prosecution that has been decided upon independently in that way, but I completely understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes. Pretty well everyone in the House will acknowledge the bravery over so many years of the servicemen and women who served in Northern Ireland. They were a line of defence for decent, law-abiding people of all communities in Northern Ireland against ruthless terrorism. I will draw his remarks to the attention of the Ministers he mentioned.
Walter Kershaw from my constituency is a world-famous mural artist. His work is exceptionally well received from Portugal to Peru, but that work needs to come back home. May we have a debate on what Arts Council England funding is available for projects such as Walter painting a mural in Rochdale town centre?
I cannot promise an immediate debate in Government time. It is quite an important principle that the Arts Council administers its budget at arm’s length from Ministers; we do not want any suggestion that political sympathies might start to influence individual grant decisions made by Arts Council England or arts organisations elsewhere in the UK. But the hon. Gentleman has demonstrated again that he is a champion of the achievements of Rochdale in the artistic world as well as in many other areas of life.
Tom Weaver and Philip Loveday are two disabled veterans living in Bridgend. They decided to spend £1,500 of their own savings to buy lunch for citizens across the county borough of Bridgend. They wanted to carry out random acts of kindness for people because in living with their disability they had found great help and support in the local community. The local branch of Subway added another 500 meals, so we handed out 1,000 lunches. Given that this week we have discussed Brexit, Aleppo and the fall of the pound, may we have a Government statement on the importance of random acts of kindness in raising the spirits of us all and making this a great country to live in?
I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments and add my unreserved congratulations, support and good will to her two constituents. It is the truth that in our constituency work every single one of us in this House comes across cases, such as the one she has described to us this morning, of the most incredible acts of selflessness and public spirit by our fellow citizens. Whenever politics is at risk of making us feel a bit low and depressed, those sorts of acts of kindness and generosity by ordinary, decent British citizens really warm the heart and make us have faith in this country.
I am sure the House will join me in wishing Sheffield’s very own Jessica Ennis-Hill all the best as she announces her retirement, and in congratulating Yorkshire—God’s very own county, of course—on securing the world road cycling championships in 2019. Will the Leader of the House commit the Government to continuing to support the county as it works to make the most of this wonderful opportunity?
I am happy to endorse the hon. Lady’s congratulations to Yorkshire, and will make sure that the Sports Minister is aware of her concerns about funding—I am sure that the Sports Minister will want to have due regard to the importance of the success of that event. Everyone in the House will want to thank Jessica Ennis-Hill for all that she has done, for her achievements in her chosen sport and for the inspiration she has given to so many aspiring young athletes, and women athletes in particular, in Yorkshire and far beyond in the UK.
Houmous and taramasalata are big business in Blaenau Gwent. Zorba Foods makes dips, employs more than 300 people and has a turnover of £50 million a year. However, the cost of its imported ingredients such as chickpeas has increased because the pound has dropped by nearly 20%. May we have a debate on Brexit and its impact on family food bills, because it looks like both breakfast and lunch are getting more expensive as our currency weakens?
We seem to be moving from toast and sandwiches through to pitta bread and dips. The truth is that when sterling falls, imports become more expensive but exports become cheaper. When sterling rises, it is the other way around. Companies of all types learn to plan and adjust for those currency risks. Currencies go up and down, fluctuating in value. If the companies in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency are producing good, high-quality products in an efficient way, they should look forward to a successful future.
The increase in childhood cancers is alarming—it is some 40% in the past 16 years. Even given population growth, the increase is still 30%. That is down to things such as lifestyle, the environment, genetics, air pollution, pesticides and diet. May we have a debate on the increase in children’s cancers, which are critical for each and every one of us in the House?
Nobody would dissent from the hon. Gentleman’s view that any increase in incidence of childhood cancer should be deplored and that we should be active in seeking ways in which to prevent the occurrence of cancer, and to ensure early detection and effective treatment. I hope he will have the opportunity at Health questions in future or in an Adjournment debate to continue to highlight that important subject.
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Secretary Amber Rudd, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Attorney General, Secretary David Mundell, Secretary James Brokenshire and Mr Ben Wallace, presented a Bill to amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; make provision in connection with terrorist property; create corporate offences for cases where a person associated with a body corporate or partnership facilitates the commission by another person of a tax evasion offence; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 75) with explanatory notes (Bill 75-EN).