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Topical Questions

Volume 626: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2017

In their 2015 manifesto, the Government committed to sign up their major suppliers to the prompt payment code. This voluntary code commits signatories to fair payment terms across all UK transactions. Prompt payment can make a real difference to small businesses, boosting their cash flow and allowing them to invest in growth. Since 2015, we have worked closely with the Government’s strategic suppliers to encourage them to sign up. I am pleased to confirm that all the suppliers we targeted in 2015 have now signed up to the code.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that transparency is an effective way of changing the culture around prompt payments? What are the Government doing to ensure that businesses that regularly pay their suppliers late can be identified?

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. We recently introduced a new statutory duty for large companies to report on a six-monthly basis on their payment performance and practices. It is important that this protects small and medium-sized enterprises. We encourage businesses to report any instances of poor payment practice in public sector contracts to our mystery shopper service.

The House will be aware that we are currently having the first parliamentary by-election of this Session. It is happening over in the other place; it is the hereditary peers by-election, with just 31 electors. Does the Minister agree that that is a farce in a modern-day democracy?

The Government have been clear, in the previous Parliament and in their manifesto, that reform of the House of Lords is not an immediate priority. However, a Lord Speaker’s Committee in the other place is looking at the size of the House of Lords and we are determined to consider its recommendations. The situation relates to legislation passed by a previous Labour Government in 1999. We are determined to ensure, above all, that the House of Lords is an effective revising Chamber.

T5. Will Ministers assure the House that all relevant Government Departments will be consulted to ensure that the domestic implications of Brexit are properly considered? (900213)

The Cabinet Office plays an important role in ensuring that Government business is effectively co-ordinated, including on important issues around Brexit. Cabinet Office Ministers are working closely with colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union and others across Whitehall to ensure that we get the best deal for the whole United Kingdom.

T2. The Government’s coalition of chaos extends, unfortunately, as far as cyber-security, with responsibility shared between the Cabinet Office, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Can the Minister tell me the prevalence of XP machines in the Government estate, the public sector and the private sector, and what she is doing to reduce it? (900210)

We have made good progress on reducing dramatically the number of XP machines in the Government cyber-estate. The hon. Lady will know that the National Cyber Security Centre takes the lead on this issue and is co-ordinating work across government.

T7. Further to my earlier question about students fraudulently voting twice, may I ask whether, when my hon. Friend meets representatives of the Electoral Commission, he will ensure that the police are involved as well? (900215)

When it comes to the issue of electoral fraud and double voting, I will ensure that we involve all our electoral partners, including the police.

T3. If the Government are really committed to modernising the electoral register, will the Minister confirm that they will allow universities to block-register students during enrolment and re-registration, and ensure that schools and further education colleges give details of people who are approaching voting age to the electoral registration office? (900211)

No. We do not agree with block registration. What the Government have done is to ensure, through the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, that universities have a duty to encourage registration. We will publish ministerial guidance on the issue in 2018.

Now that the Local Government Finance Bill has been suspended, will the Minister tell me what additional revenue-raising powers mayors such as mine in devolved areas like Cambridgeshire will have?

I know my hon. Friend will welcome the fact that, through the devolution deal with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the Government have pledged up to £770 million of new funding to support local economic growth. I look forward to working with the excellent James Palmer, the new mayor, to support growth in Cambridgeshire.

T4. At the last general election, the Government made very little attempt to ensure that voting registration and participation took place, and large swathes of the electorate were unable to vote properly. Will the Minister outline the steps that will be taken to ensure—[Interruption.] (900212)

Will the Minister outline the steps that will be taken to ensure that people living with visual impairments are able to vote, and that voting is fully accessible both to them and to those with learning disabilities?

A record number of people are now on the electoral register. We have a democracy in which more people are participating than ever before. I shall be delighted to work with the hon. Lady on the question of visual impairments, which I believe is a cross-party issue, and we look forward to presenting proposals to ensure that elections are accessible to visually impaired people.