We now come to the Backbench Business debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming Adjournment. This debate, appropriately, will be opened by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns).
I beg to move,
That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.
I begin, Mr Speaker, by wishing you and your staff, all right hon. and hon. Members and their families and all the staff of this House, who keep us going so well, a happy Easter. I think everyone is truly looking forward to this break, although some of us have local elections to fight during that time.
I want to bring to the House’s attention the perverse nature of the Government’s decision to award the passport printing contract to a Franco-Dutch company that is partly owned by the French Government. It is right that the UK follows both European Union and World Trade Organisation rules when considering any tender process and that we continue to maintain close relationships with our neighbours and allies as we leave the EU, but the Government have serious questions to answer about the assessment or apparent lack of assessment of the economic impact of this decision on the north-east, including my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), where De La Rue resides.
As hon. Members may well know, De La Rue, which has printed UK passports for the past decade, submitted a bid to continue that service, but the great British blue passport is going to be made in the EU—probably in France. We certainly do not want to shun trade with our continental neighbours, but to suggest that defending jobs at home is to shun trade abroad is simply false. De La Rue provides hard-fought-for, well-paid jobs for some 600 workers at the Gateshead plant alone, about 100 of whom work on printing British passports.
I would not ordinarily promote the Daily Mail, but its online petition opposing this decision now has more than 200,000 signatures. In addition, an e-petition on the Government and Parliament site has over 32,000 signatures from people demanding a Government response to the question at hand.
In a post-Brexit Britain, we must ensure that jobs at home are secured. The Government would be wrong to push forward during the Easter recess with the plan to export the production of British passports. The savings on the contract will surely be offset by the loss of revenue to the Exchequer from employee and employer taxes—income tax, national insurance and corporation tax—not to mention the loss of spending power in the local community on the part of workers who spend their hard-earned money in local businesses. Placing jobs at risk is surely not worth the savings expected from the current plan.
The Government tout the idea of making the passport affordable for all, but the Home Office has increased the fees on passports across the board. Online applications for a new passport have gone up by nearly 4%, while people applying via the post are seeing an even more substantial increase of £12.50 per passport application, which represents a 17% increase. While the Government are making savings on the contract by giving it to Gemalto, they are not actually passing on those savings to the people buying passports. That should be remembered because, after all, we are here to serve those people. Incredibly, there will be a 27% increase in the cost of a child’s passport application, which surely cannot be right.
What a sham it is that the Government claim to be getting a deal for their people, when they are in fact raising costs and exporting British jobs at the same time. The French Government and people, on the grounds of national security, would never countenance printing their passports in Britain, but our Government are more wedded to free market economics than to Britain’s national security, national integrity and national pride. We need a robust debate on a better solution than what is currently planned, and it should occur after the recess.
Apprenticeships and jobs are hot topics in the north-east of England, as they often are in this House, but the current statistics do not reflect the Government’s ambition. As the year progresses, the number of unemployed claimants in my constituency continues to rise. Just last month, there are, since February, nearly 300 more claimants, and 5.5% of the economically active population find themselves unemployed. Under-employment and unemployment continue to plague the north-east region, with youth unemployment up 2%.
Touting the current unemployment figures as a positive for the region is merely a smokescreen. Regionally, unemployment in the north-east is one percentage point higher than in the rest of the country, but this number does not take into account the people who have given up looking for work altogether. In addition, wages continue to be below those pre the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. While fewer people may be out of work, those in work are earning far less than their counterparts a decade ago, as the cost of living has risen.
Data released in February show that the Government are failing to hit their marks on apprenticeship recruitment and apprenticeship opportunities, thus failing our young people and employers. According to figures from the Department for Education, between May and July 2017, 48,000 people began an apprenticeship. That is fewer than half the 117,000 apprenticeships begun in the same period in 2016—a staggering 61% decrease. Such numbers are hardly surprising given the intrinsic flaws in the apprenticeship levy. The lack of flexibility in the value of levy contributions, which large employers can pass down the supply chain to smaller subcontractors who work for them, is key. That is especially true for trades jobs, which larger firms often tend to subcontract down the supply chain.
The apprenticeship levy scheme must be radically reformed to serve better the hardest hit communities and young people looking to join the workforce. Although levels of unemployment for people over 50 may have gone down, youth unemployment has increased in my constituency. Compound that with the troubled roll-out of universal credit and the plan to outsource the production of British passports and it is easy to wonder whether the Government truly care about the economy of the north-east.
There is also a genuine crisis facing the social care sector regarding sleep-in workers, although not many people seem to know about it. The Government provide funding for sleep-in staff who work with people with severe learning difficulties. Sleep-in shifts are an integral part of the public services provided by the Government, but for the past six years, the Government have not funded those services at the national minimum wage, and HMRC is now pursuing providers for six years of back pay. The providers are procured by local government contracts with money directly funded by central Government, and the shortfall is estimated at £400 million in liabilities for providers in that sector. This is a crisis for social care providers and the people who need those services most—those with learning difficulties and the most vulnerable. That unexpected cost on providers is threatening the viability of the care sector, and 69% of local authorities have reported service failure due to this issue. According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, a provider in Blackpool is reportedly closing and others are handing back contracts that they are now unable to fulfil.
The Government must step in and fund that back pay to prevent the crisis from spiralling out of control. If unfunded, the sector could produce a rash of mini-Carillions. Vulnerable people will suffer; thousands of care workers will lose their jobs; and local authorities and NHS trusts will be unable to cope with the consequences. The social care sector should not, and cannot, afford to fund that service. The Government must face up to their responsibilities, otherwise we risk the care of vulnerable people.
Last Friday, I had the privilege of meeting a group of people—mainly grandparents—who are kinship carers for their grandchildren or extended families. Those kinship carers get very little support from the state and often look after children—sometimes several children—who have a range of personal, health and educational difficulties, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attachment disorders, foetal alcohol syndrome, autism and behavioural difficulties. Those kinship carers diligently care for their children and often suffer in impoverished circumstances because their caring commitments take up so much time that they cannot work. They deserve our support and have been ignored for too long.
Finally—I will rattle through this—let me mention the upcoming Great Exhibition of the North. It begins on 22 June and is a free, summer-long event to celebrate the pioneering spirit of the north of England. Poetry, music, theatre, art galleries, life sciences and urban design will all be on display, highlighting the creative impact of our inventors, artists and designers. My constituency is excited to host such a world-class event, and the exhibition will attract attendees from all over the UK, Europe and beyond. The Great Exhibition of the North will be the largest event in the country to take place this year. Newcastle and Gateshead will become an even more visionary destination that will not only tell the story of the north and its people, but showcase everything that is great about them. Organisers, volunteers, contributors and artists have brought great pride to the community, and I hope hon. Members will join me in commending them for their work. This massive collaboration is sure to change any preconceptions about the north, and I hope that many Members will join me in attending this magnificent exhibition, and get north.
I am most grateful to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. On account of the level of interest, I am afraid that it is necessary, with immediate effect, to apply a limit of five minutes each on Back-Bench speeches. We will begin with Sir David Amess.
Before the House adjourns for the Easter recess, there are a number of points I wish to raise very quickly.
I am delighted that we are leaving the European Union. Our Prime Minister has had a great deal to put up with in the past year. She has had to hold the hand of the American President and she is continually kissed on either cheek by European bureaucrats, yet she has got us to a wonderful point as we leave the European Union. I absolutely agree that Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.
It is crazy that Southend is not a city. We should be declared a city. As part of the bonus as we leave the European Union, we are going to have a trade fair. We are going to invite countries from all over the world to trade their goods and services with Southend.
I am very worried about the number of Asian elephants. The number has fallen dramatically from 1 million to 42,000. The elephant tourism industry is not helping the situation.
Having participated in the “Save Live Music” rally outside Parliament, I backed the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill, promoted by the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar). We should, however, also tackle the excessive pricing of music tickets and those in the entertainment industry more broadly. Being disappointed when attempting to purchase tickets online is one thing, but this disappointment is further compounded when tickets appear, often within seconds of selling out, on websites for an extortionately inflated price. That has got to stop.
I have previously raised the matter of diesel particulate filters. There is a loophole in the law and it needs to be addressed.
I was delighted to welcome the Secretary of State for Health to our first-class hospital in Southend earlier in the year. I congratulate all the women and men who work there. I await the outcome of the sustainability and transformation partnership consultation, which finished on 23 March.
A wonderful local constituent, Carla Cressy, has highlighted the plight of women with endometriosis. I have now become a trustee of her charity and will work with her to heighten awareness of that debilitating illness.
I have raised the issue of food labelling. I support Diabetes UK and Compassion in World Farming in calling for better labelling.
Hepatitis C is an illness that can be cured. It is a deadly virus, and I hope the House will unite to make sure that everyone is cured of it.
On 15 March, I sent a letter on funeral poverty, which was signed by 22 other Members of Parliament, to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I asked her to look again at the £700 cap currently imposed on funeral expenses within the social fund funeral payment. The cap has been in place for 15 years. It needs to be changed.
Last month, I had the privilege of visiting a refugee camp in Malatya in Turkey, where some 10,000 Syrian refugees are living. What we saw was heartbreaking, but the camp is extremely well run. It is absolutely incredible how it was built within such a short space of time.
With a constituent, I had a meeting with the Fisheries Minister. I see a clear way forward for fishermen in Southend.
I took part in a debate about live exports. Transporting live animals for slaughter is totally unsatisfactory.
I was very disappointed that my ten-minute rule Bill was objected to on the Friday before last. I cannot understand why. It is a very good Bill that would end fuel poverty.
There is a lot of controversy about the Cayman Islands, but I think they are being badly treated at the moment. I have made overtures to the Secretary of State for International Trade for them to be included in the GREAT festival, which the UK is hosting in Hong Kong this month.
The Music Man project in my constituency is now in the Guinness book of records for tinging the most triangles. We look forward to an event at the Royal Albert Hall.
Later this year, I am celebrating 35 years in Parliament—well, I say that I am celebrating—and it is also the 50th anniversary of Leigh Orpheus male voice choir, which will be presiding at the event.
Rossi’s ice cream is the best in the world. We need to sell it in the House.
I visited the ambulance centre in Chelmsford last month, and I pay a full tribute to all the women and men who work under increasing pressures.
Thanks to the spring clean initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), we had a spring clean in Southend.
I close, Mr Speaker, by wishing you, all your deputies, all colleagues and all the people who work here a very happy Easter.
It is my honour to be a co-chair of the drug, alcohol and justice parliamentary group, which is just one of the many parliamentary groups founded and facilitated by Simeon Andrews, who died suddenly last month. I was among a number of Members from both Houses who attended his funeral on Monday, and judging by the number of Members from every party who signed the early-day motion in his honour, many more would wish to express gratitude for his support over the years and send condolences to his partner, Cathy, and their daughter, Lilly.
As a member of the group, I draw colleagues’ attention to the tragic fact that drug-related deaths in this country are at an all-time high. This already alarming situation could be made worse by fentanyl and its related analogues. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. This drug has already contributed to the opioid death epidemics in both Canada and the USA. Members may recall that fentanyl caused the death of the singer, Prince, almost two years ago.
In England during the last year, there have been reports of drug-related deaths linked to fentanyl and an increase in police seizures, leading to health warnings being issued by Public Health England. The main supply of fentanyl in our country comes from China, from where the drug is smuggled by ship to the UK and then made available to users, mainly by sale on the dark net. With drug-related deaths in England and Wales at an all-time high, it is imperative that the Government act swiftly to prevent fentanyl significantly exacerbating the crisis. Will the Deputy Leader of the House please ask the relevant Health Minister to meet the drugs, alcohol and justice parliamentary group to discuss this pressing issue?
I would like to touch on another matter, which I hope will be of interest to smokers in this House and across the country. The UK Vaping Industry Association is the organiser of VApril, designating the coming month of April as an education and awareness month targeted at the 7.6 million smokers in the UK to help them to break their habit through switching to vaping and so improve their health. The campaign, fronted by TV doctor, Christian Jessen, will encourage smokers to take the VApril challenge. There will be vaping masterclasses at specialist retail stores across 70 cities in the UK, at which smokers will learn more about different products and nicotine strengths that can help them to quit smoking successfully.
A recent review by Public Health England highlighted that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and that it was one of the most successful ways to quit conventional cigarettes. Not only is vaping less harmful for smokers, but it is a lot less expensive than buying cigarettes and has none of the problems associated with secondary smoking. At least 40% of smokers have not even tried vaping yet, so I hope that next month will be the time that they do. I urge colleagues, especially those who are smokers, to find out more about the VApril challenge and to spread the word in their constituencies to help smokers move towards quitting cigarettes and improving their health, as well as their wealth.
Finally, I wish you, Mr Speaker, and everyone across the parliamentary estate a very happy Easter and happy recess.
The House may not be surprised by the subject about which I will be speaking. I will be speaking about it because the Government have just announced that two councils are to be merged, and I will be speaking on behalf of my constituents.
I was very pleased to hear from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) about the festival of the north. I have a slight vested interest in Newcastle, and I think that it is fantastic news. I urge colleagues to go to Newcastle, which is a very beautiful city—partly because we built it.
I welcome the chance to contribute to the debate, although what I have to say will not please everyone. I want to tell the House about a town hall in Somerset that is being spoon-fed huge sums of public money and, I am afraid, wasting every penny. The name of the waster is Taunton Deane Borough Council—unfortunately, because it has just been announced that it will be amalgamated with my local council, West Somerset. It had ambitions to take over the council, and last week the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government gave it the thumbs up.
Most people shook their heads in disbelief and shock, including the locals in Taunton Deane, as they read the latest letters in the local paper. The Taunton Deane councillors plan to change the council’s name, sack more than a third of the workforce, spend millions of pounds that, unfortunately, we do not have on computers that do not seem to work, make themselves comfy in new offices on which they are spending £11 million although they are worth £5 million, and then come begging to Whitehall when it all goes wrong. Even the unions, which have been instrumental in providing information, agree with that.
In these dark corners of local government, incompetence rules, and we often find greed as well, not to mention sharp practice in many cases—not just in my area—and occasionally, I am afraid, corruption. Taunton Deane Borough Council has been making a dodgy name for itself for many years, long before my time, and has been rattling its tin in Whitehall for ages. The Government recently handed it £7 million to pay for a new road, which runs along the edge of my boundary. It never occurred to anyone that you cannot sanction a brand-new housing estate unless you build a brand-new road first.
What Taunton Deane is very good at is dishing out planning permission to builders. It is a tiny council, but, believe it or not, it wants to build 17,000 new houses. The effects of that on the roads and the infrastructure will be devastating for my constituents. A great many of those houses will be erected by people—dare I call them mates?—in the local area. The hon. Member for Gateshead will recall the days of Poulson and others. The council leader, believe it not, is a builder. Mates’ rates matter big time in Taunton, and these mates all work around Taunton.
What gets my goat is that, while laying concrete on its green fields, the council has the bare-faced cheek to pretend that it has an environmentally friendly master plan. The Government have rewarded it with a few hundred thousand pounds, which, admittedly, is not a lot in the scheme of things, but it is pretending that a few more badly planned housing estates will add up to a shiny garden town. The idea of garden towns is to build something new, and to aspire, but that does not apply in this case. Taunton Deane specialises in dreams in my area, which is a bit worrying, especially with Glastonbury down the road. Its latest lunacies include borrowing millions of pounds to tart up its headquarters, and trying to buy a hotel. Why a local council should want to buy a hotel is slightly beyond me.
The council’s leadership is rather like Arthur Daley, in a three-wheeled Reliant, flogging “cut and shut” Cortinas to unsuspecting civil servants. They will probably all end up in the canal. What saddens me is that the Government so often cave in too quickly and pay up. I would say the same about Governments on either side of the House. We must stand up against petty bureaucracies. Underfunding may be a problem, but overfunding is a downright scandal.
The future of West Somerset council, in my constituency, is being dictated by a group of people who have no interest in it whatever. It has 28 councillors, and the number will go down to roughly 15, perhaps 14. Taunton Deane has demanded red lines. It has no code of conduct, and no precept for any of its parishes. There is no town council in a town that contains about 100,000 people. The whole thing is run by someone who has a pointed beard and looks like Arthur Daley.
The point I am making is that this is not the way to conduct local government. My area is the sparsest part of England, because we have Exmoor and the Quantocks, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. We cannot build on the coastline. We have enormous flood plains, which, as many of my colleagues will remember, have been affected rather devastatingly. Our room for manoeuvre is very tight. We have one secondary—we do not need any more, to be fair—
Order. I call Martin Whitfield.
It is great to speak just before the recess to support my colleague in Holyrood, Daniel Johnson MSP, in his campaign to find proper support for those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I am proud to sponsor early-day motion 1112, which refers to an unfortunate documentary distributed by Netflix entitled “Take Your Pills”. Here in the UK, there are too many people who wait too long for diagnosis and the support they do receive is fragmented and ineffective. Those diagnosed with ADHD deserve our respect and support and their contribution to society is enormous and truly valued.
The situation for young people is even more desperate. Across the House, we are aware of the needs of all young people, as is our whole society. The difference is that within this House we can do something to make a difference. ADHD carries a stigma occasioned sometimes by ignorance and, in some cases, by fear. A lifetime with ADHD should be not a lifetime lost but a lifetime saved. ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder and there is no doubt that with the right combination of understanding and care, the benefits to individuals and society are clear. When it goes wrong, the results can sadly be dramatic.
With the right support, those who live with the condition can achieve anything—they include Olympic athletes, Michelin-starred chefs, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists and even MPs—but most importantly those who are diagnosed, if properly supported, can lead happy fulfilling lives rather than feeling alone and unsupported, and being more at risk of bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. That brings me to my early-day motion and the Netflix documentary. Those behind the documentary might well have been well intentioned, and the programme could have taken a positive approach to ADHD, but unfortunately it failed to do so. The documentary looked at the medication prescribed to those diagnosed to help manage their condition, but the language it chose to use and the comparison with unregulated and illegal drugs paints a far from real picture of the medication. The documentary makes little attempt to show the effects of the medication when prescribed, compared with when the same medication was abused by those without a diagnosis. Indeed, taking the medication for other reasons would be illegal in the US.
Diagnosis of ADHD should lead to treatment to help relieve the symptoms and make the condition much less of a problem in day-to-day life. ADHD can be treated using medication or therapy, but, as the NHS advises, it is often best done with a combination of both. Medication is not a cure for ADHD, but it may help someone with the condition concentrate better, be less impulsive, feel calmer, and learn and practise new skills. Treatments that include therapy go beyond medication, and indeed the therapy and strategies apply not only to those who suffer from ADHD but to their families and teachers and to the communities around them. I congratulate the Scottish ADHD Coalition on its employers’ guide to ADHD in the workplace.
The documentary is clumsy. Medication for those diagnosed is important and misuse of medication is dangerous. On behalf of people who are diagnosed with ADHD, I would like to say first, among many things, that ADHD is real. It is not cured by drugs. Treatment can help manage the condition. It is not a condition of hyperactive boys. There is a prevalence among boys, but girls can also have ADHD. That is important, because in later life gender bias in relation to ADHD can lead to late diagnosis and poorer support.
Much still needs to be said, but let me finish by expressing my thanks to those who worked on #Bornto beADHD, to the all-party parliamentary group in Parliament and, on a personal note, to Daniel Johnson MSP, who is my friend and who has ADHD.
I want to wish us all a peaceful Easter. At a time when people’s thoughts are about others and the strength of hope, please remember that people with ADHD are not different—they are exceptional.
This afternoon, I should like to talk about a subject that has been much in the news recently—namely, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence. I also want to talk about the Royal Air Force Regiment, which currently has key responsibility for protecting us in the United Kingdom. I gather that the RAF Regiment was hugely instrumental in cleaning up after the Salisbury chemical weapon attack recently. Since the second world war, the RAF has had the service lead for defending us against nuclear, biological and chemical—NBC—attacks. In 2002, the collective term was widened to include radiological attacks and thus became chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear—CBRN—defence. The RAF NBC defence capability has always been vested in 27 Squadron of the RAF Regiment. Coincidentally, that squadron was once commanded by Jock Stewart MC, who happens to be my father. I am proudly wearing an RAF Regiment tie today, because I have the real privilege of being an honorary companion of the RAF Regiment officers’ dinner club.
Apart from EU countries, states in all other continents have often sent delegations to the UK to view our RAF Regiment’s specialist capabilities with a view to replicating them in their own countries. I will not attempt to name them, as there might be security implications. RAF Regiment specialist CBRN personnel provided unique assistance to the Japanese Government and other national embassies and agencies in radiation monitoring during the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011. As I have mentioned, their expertise was also deployed to Salisbury recently.
Following the strategic defence and security review in 2015, the decision was taken to transfer the specialist CBRN defence capability to the Army. To me, that decision lacks logic, and I hope it can be stopped. The current modernising defence programme—a mini-defence review in any other terms—provides for a timely reassessment of the required specialist CBRN defence capabilities and the opportunity to challenge the SDSR 2015 decision. The RAF Regiment has amassed considerable CBRN defence knowledge, skills and expertise over many decades, and it is the acknowledged leader in CBRN defence operations in the international community.
I will lose many Army friends by saying this, but I think that the transfer of the specialist CBRN capability from the RAF to the Army could introduce significant risks to the UK’s defence and security during a time of extreme uncertainty. I believe that the Ministry of Defence may wish to reconsider the wisdom of the planned transfer from the RAF to the Army and I very much hope that this capability will stay with the Royal Air Force Regiment, which has long-term proven expertise. Also, it is the one organisation that is judged to be a world leader in its class. Mr Speaker, I want to say thank you to you, your Deputy Speakers, the Clerks and all the staff of this great establishment for putting up with me for so long. I will now give you a break by going away and shutting up for two weeks. Thank you.
The hon. Gentleman represents no burden so far as the Chair is concerned. That was very self-effacing of him, and I wish him a very good break. I thank him for his characteristic courtesy.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). I am grateful for this opportunity to raise what I and others—including my good friend, Rochdale Councillor Billy Sheerin—consider to be a much-overlooked issue. In the current Government, following the Prime Minister’s last reshuffle, we have Ministers for Women and Equalities, for disabled people and for loneliness, and social care has been added to the remit of the Secretary of State for Health, but we have no Minister for older people. Yet we have 15.3 million people aged over 60 in this country. By 2035, 29% of people will be over 60. Nearly one in five people currently in the UK will live to see their 100th birthday. Some 60% of older people agree that age discrimination exists in the daily lives of older people.
The older people’s champions network in the north-west, composed of local authority elected members, has been campaigning for the establishment of a post of older people’s Minister, and many hon. Members will have received an email from this group asking for their support. It is a cross-party group, led by a Conservative councillor from the Ribble Valley, Susan Bibby. This group wants the post of older people’s Minister to be established and to work across Departments in the same way that the Minister for Disabled People works to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged in any way.
With the increase in pension age, people are having to work longer to make enough money to live. The Government are in a position to encourage employers to embrace and utilise their older workforce, through the Work and Pensions Minister route and through advertising job vacancies and press releases from MPs encouraging employers in their constituencies to take on older workers. On health issues, dementia is the biggest killer in the UK today, and living well with dementia is the key to people being able to continue to contribute to society.
An older people’s Minister could work more closely with Public Health England to educate on prevention and living well with diseases generally associated with later life. I am pleased to be able to talk about the great steps made towards inclusivity of older people by the combined authority of Greater Manchester, led by Mayor Andy Burnham. On 16 March 2018, Greater Manchester became the UK’s first age-friendly city region as recognised by the World Health Organisation. Mayor Burnham, in addition to launching the age-friendly strategy, also announced £1 million of Sport England funding to encourage older people to be more physically and socially active.
Greater Manchester’s age-friendly strategy covers a multitude of areas, including housing, health and social care, transport, art and culture, physical activity, work and welfare and benefits, as well as a campaign to positively change the way that older people are viewed. It is clear that the north-west is leading the way in making sure that older people remain valued members of our society and are able to live healthily, happily and independently for as long as possible, from the positive approach shown by Mayor Andy Burnham to the campaigning work done by the older people’s champions in the north-west.
Caroline Adams, the Director of Age UK said that she would like to see a cross-cutting unit that could join up policy on older people across Departments. She said:
“What’s certain though is that we can’t go on as we are, with scarcely any central government resources directed at developing age-friendly policies and ensuring older people's views inform them.”
Some might argue that the Minister for loneliness might cover some of the role, but loneliness is, sadly, not exclusive to older people, and there are so many other issues that are crucial to our ageing society to enable them to have full and active lives. We live in an ageing society, and the impact and implications for us all will be immense. The creation of the role of an older people’s Minister is an idea whose time has come. I hope that by next Easter such a post might be in place.
To finish, I would like to wish everyone in the House a very happy Easter.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes). I agreed with every word she uttered.
From next Tuesday, my Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 comes into force. For the first time in this country, everyone in England who is threatened with homelessness or is homeless will have to be assisted by their local authority. This key reform means that no one should be forced to sleep rough on our streets in the future. Later this year, the various different authorities—children’s social services in the case of care leavers, others in the case of armed forces veterans, ex-offenders and NHS hospital patients—will have to refer those for whom they are responsible through this system to ensure that no one is left without a home. The Government still have far more to do to combat the problem of existing rough sleepers, who will not be covered by this particular piece of legislation. However, I hope that the legislation will in time reduce the bill that we pay for temporary accommodation, which currently stands at £1.7 billion a year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) is replying to the debate and, in his previous role, he conducted the consultation on disabled access at stations, so I cannot resist the opportunity to remind him that many of my constituents applied for lifts at Stanmore and Canons Park stations. Although that is the responsibility of the Mayor of London, he has singularly failed to deliver on the promise, so I look to my hon. Friend to force him to do so by encouraging his successor, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), to provide some funding for this much-needed improvement.
On education in Harrow, I am delighted that Canons High School and Bentley Wood High School for Girls have both received substantial capital funds for improvements. Equally, I strongly support Harrow Council’s application for funding for the rebuilding of Pinner Wood School. It was discovered that the school had been built on a chalk mine, so the council took the sensible decision to demolish and replace it. However, the Government have refused to fund the work, saying that Harrow Council should provide the money from council tax reserves, which is grossly unfair given that the council has taken a sensible decision for the health and safety of the children involved. I also strongly supported the application by Mariposa for a school in my constituency but, regrettably, the Department for Education rejected that sensible and strongly supported application for a school that would have been excellent.
I have applied for an Adjournment debate on my next topic, and I hope to have the opportunity to debate it after Easter, but I will outline it briefly. In 2016, my constituent Shivji Patel was carrying his grandson Kai Khetani while crossing a pedestrian crossing. The lights had gone red and he was struck down by a motorist, Ben Etheridge, who had travelled through the red light and was found to have been using his mobile phone at time of collision. Kai was two at the time and now, two years on, he is partially blind, fed through a tube, unable to communicate and in need of 24-hour care. Despite all that, the motorist concerned, who has impacted Kai’s life forever, was given a two-year suspended sentence, 240 hours of community service, a three-year driving ban and a tag for a period of three months. The driver damaged that poor child’s life forever, and a custodial term is the only sentence that should have been given to him.
Turning to broadband in my constituency, the reality is that many households in Stanmore cannot get access to a decent standard of connection. Everyone thinks that that is a problem only in rural areas, but parts of London still have it despite the extra money provided by the Government.
Mr Speaker, I end by wishing you, the Deputy Speakers, all the staff of the House and all hon. Members not only a very happy Easter, but a very happy Pesach as well.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), who has done such fantastic work on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. I also wish him good luck for his Adjournment debate; I am sure that he will not stop until he is successful.
Before we adjourn for the Easter recess, I want to use this opportunity to raise two interlinked issues, both of which are incredibly important and close to my heart: early years support and reducing youth violence. In Lewisham, Deptford, we have several great nursery schools providing excellent early childhood education and family services. I was recently contacted by the head of one of them, Cathryn Kinsey, who spoke to me about the challenges that the school is facing as a result of funding cuts, and her worries about the services that it can provide post 2020. Clyde Nursery School is based in one of the most deprived wards in Lewisham, where child poverty is particularly high. Despite that, Clyde’s quality of teaching is consistently rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
Clyde also offers a range of vital services to the children’s families: support to survivors of domestic violence; parenting workshops; financial advice; English language classes; employment advice; and accredited training programmes. The support on offer is truly remarkable. Clyde is an asset that the local area cannot afford to lose, but its future is uncertain. The funding formula has left the nursery struggling, and cuts of nearly 40% and a projected budget deficit of £502,000 mean that it might be forced to close by 2020. Sadly, Clyde is not alone. Some 67% of nursery schools have predicted that they will no longer be financially viable by 2020.
It would be difficult to overstate the devastating impact that those closures would have. The vast majority of nursery schools serve children in deprived areas and such schools are consistently shown to be the most effective way of improving social mobility. Study after study shows that a child’s first years are critical in shaping their future health, character, success at school and future career. Nursery schools can have a genuinely transformative effect on levelling the playing field. In those early years, every experience can have a potentially profound impact on the life course of an individual, both positively and negatively.
I chair the youth violence commission, a cross-party group of MPs that seeks evidence-based policies to tackle the root causes of youth violence—it is great to see the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), who is also a member of the commission, in the Chamber. We have been holding a series of evidence sessions as part of our research with Warwick University, and similar themes are emerging.
Over and over again, we hear about the importance of considering adverse childhood experiences or trauma in the context of youth violence. A child who grows up with four or more adverse experiences is 10 times more likely to be involved in violence by the age of 18 than a young person who has experienced none.
It is increasingly clear that early years support is just as important to tackling youth violence as it is to tackling inequality. I hope the Government have considered the importance of early intervention and early years support in their upcoming serious violence strategy, which I understand is due to be published very soon—thankfully, it has been agreed today that we will have a debate on the strategy.
We are currently at risk of seeing some of the best early years support disappear from some of our most deprived communities. The impact of that loss will be felt for years to come in a multitude of ways. If the Government are serious about reducing youth violence, and if they are serious about social mobility, their first step must be to reverse these cuts to nursery schools before it is too late.
Order. On the whole, it is helpful if people bob rather than assume the Chair has a psychic quality. Mr Sweeney, get in there, man.
After nine months in the House, clearly there is still a learning curve.
I pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, to your colleagues in the Chair, and to all Members—Whips and others—who have been so generous in offering their insight and advice. As a new Member, I am having to adapt to a very unfamiliar environment and to some rather esoteric practices. The most rewarding aspect of being a new Member is having the opportunity to bring to the attention of this House, and of the wider public, affairs that I hope will improve the lot and lives of my constituents, and also improve national policy. That is why it is so important to have such debates in which we can reflect on what we have discussed in this House over the last term and consider what important matters to raise in the coming term.
The key issues I want to raise as we move towards the next term relate to the green deal. At least 167 of my constituents have had work on their homes carried out under the Government-backed green deal, but a number of them have faced significant problems following that work. One of my constituents is now unable to sell her house due to the reckless, unregulated actions of a rogue green deal installer. Many of my constituents have found themselves in tens of thousands of pounds in debt, their retirements ruined for the rest of their lives. This has played out appallingly, and we need a debate in this House on how the Government will compensate and protect those people, who entered into these green deal arrangements in good faith, under a Government kitemark, especially now that the Government have supported new iterations of the scheme without significantly changing the regulatory framework for green deal suppliers. This is a matter of immediate urgency.
It is also important that this House discusses the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba. Many Members will have noted the recent case of this doctor, who was struck off by the General Medical Council after being convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, despite the matter being an evident case of institutional failure across the NHS that could have an impact on any junior doctor in the field. This has led to an unprecedented loss of confidence among the medical profession and across the UK in the GMC’s governance. The case highlights the need for an urgent debate to consider the GMC’s capacity to effectively regulate in the interests of patients’ safety and so that we can restore public and practitioner confidence in it. That is a matter of immediate urgency.
I come to another matter that I have been discussing with colleagues, including in my role as a member of the all-party group on shipbuilding and ship repair. I note that the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) is in the Chamber. He is another of the group’s members and represents Govan shipyard. We have a common interest in the matter of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship procurement and, in particular, in the issue of unfair state aid practices that may distort the competitive procurement of these vessels. Of particular note here is Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, which is currently building the Tide class tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and has benefited from unfair state aid assistance from the South Korean Government. We need an urgent debate to discuss the procurement of new Royal Fleet Auxiliary fleet solid support ships. Such a debate should consider whether any shipyard worldwide that is benefiting from unfair state aid will be excluded from the competition and the potential merits of holding a UK-only competition to design and construct the new fleet solid support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
In addition, it is important that the House considers the continuity Bills in relation to the devolved Administrations. Given the lack of agreement between the devolved powers and UK Government on common frameworks following our exit from the European Union, we urgently need a debate in this House on the implications of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill for the Scottish devolution settlement and the settlement for other devolved Administrations in the UK.
I welcome the scheduled debate on industrial strategy in our first week back in this House, but I emphasise that it is important that we raise the issue of public procurement as part of that debate and, in particular, the Government’s lack of willingness to ensure that Government contracts and sub-contractors of Government projects abide by fair work practices. We must also discuss the need to ensure we have efficient financing practices for public procurement. That is of particular note in defence contracts, where we have seen the absurdity of in-year budget spend profiles prejudicing against efficient procurement over the longer term, which is driving longer-term costs into major public procurement programmes. That has to be grasped and sorted out as a matter of urgency. That is in the long-term industrial interest of the UK, particularly today, as we have seen the sad demise of GKN as an independent industrial company—it is a major player in Britain’s defence and aerospace sector.
I finish by saying that it has been a great pleasure to have served in the House during my nine months as a Member of Parliament. I wish everyone a very happy Easter.
Mr Speaker, may I start by wishing you, the House staff and all Members a very enjoyable Easter break? May I encourage Members to visit the highlands, and indeed to come to my constituency, where tourism comprises 20% of the economy? It is no surprise that people choose to go there, as we have one of Europe’s fastest growing cities, surrounded by stunning countryside. The growth of direct flights from Inverness airport has delivered record-breaking numbers of passengers and stays in our fabulous hotels, and our excellent restaurants are being used as well.
Why would not you, Mr Speaker, come to Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey to enjoy the snow sports in the Cairngorms or the golfing in Nairn? You could go on a cruise along Loch Ness with Jacobite Cruises. You might even choose to visit Tomatin distillery, Dalwhinnie distillery or indeed Speyside distillery, which has ambitious plans for expansion, starting with a new shop and visitor attraction in Aviemore.
We encourage cycling and walking in my constituency, and we have fantastic biking and walking trails. I pay tribute to Grantown Grammar School. Its approach to outdoor education includes fully integrating mountain biking and other activities into the school day.
I wish to help the hon. Gentleman by saying that my uncle was at school on the edges of Loch Ness as a boy and saw the Loch Ness monster. As a consequence, tourism expanded hugely—it was in all the Scottish newspapers. It was only at his funeral that it was allowed that that was a fake.
I was initially grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, but that is a scurrilous attack on what is quite clearly one of my constituents. I will not have that and hope that he will withdraw that comment.
While in my constituency, Mr Speaker, you could pop along to the Highland Wildlife Park to congratulate the highly trained staff on the UK’s first and only polar bear cub—a born highlander. Or you might take a trip to the Landmark Forest Adventure Park, which was recently awarded the Travellers’ Choice award by TripAdvisor and named in the top 1% of visitor attractions worldwide. In the city, we have exciting plans for Inverness castle and the launch of a truly world-leading augmented reality app, which will put Inverness history into perspective and enable people to grasp it with their own hands.
My constituency is internationalist, diverse and welcoming. We have welcome friends, neighbours and colleagues from all over the world. The children at Central Primary School in Inverness speak 21 languages. We are pleased to welcome Inverlingo, a new meet-up group for internationals living in Inverness so that they can be linked to EU nationals and we can share their value in our society. We will soon have the opening of the honorary Polish consulate in Inverness, too.
Our people care deeply about supporting others who need help, and I wish to thank just some of the organisations involved. Mikeysline, which recently opened the Hive in Inverness, offers a place for people aged 17 and over to drop in when they are feeling low or depressed, or when they simply need some space or support. The volunteers there do incredible work. Birchwood Highland recovery centre is the first and only mental health residential recovery centre in Inverness, and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
In World Autism Awareness Week, a special mention must be given to the Highland One Stop Shop and all the fantastic people who fought to keep that service open. They are delighted with the Scottish Government funding and the private donor who has committed to help them.
I thank the community transport groups that work wonders in Merkinch and Badenoch, and pay tribute to the contribution of the volunteers there. The Badenoch and Strathspey community transport group has an innovative project that matches up school kids with elderly people so that they can learn from each other skills such as IT.
The Boat of Garten community centre, and Emma Macdonald and team at the hall, put in huge effort to make sure that there is always something going on, from “Boat Reel” film screenings to family fun days and “Showboaters” theatre productions. Boat of Garten was featured on Channel 4’s “Village of the Year”.
I could go on and on about what is happening in my constituency. I congratulate the Inverness chamber of commerce on its 125th anniversary. I also congratulate Inverness BID—the business improvement district—on the renewal of its mandate to operate in the city.
I join others in wishing you, Mr Speaker, and all Members and staff a happy and peaceful Easter. It is an opportunity to rest and to work with the many organisations in our constituencies. For many of us, it is an opportunity to have a good night’s sleep. As someone who took a Lenten vow of no chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cake and crisps, I look forward to familiarising myself—modestly, of course—with some of those items.
This has been an excellent debate in which many Members have raised their special causes. I very much agreed with the comments made by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), about the passport contract. I can assure the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) that the Work and Pensions Committee will be looking again at the matter of funeral poverty.
I thank the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) for mentioning Simeon Andrews and his great contribution to parliamentary groups across this House. I can assure the hon. Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) that I have signed his early-day motion on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He gave an excellent speech. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) for her comments on the youth violence commission, and it was a pleasure to welcome its members to my constituency.
I very much associate myself with the comments on shipbuilding made by the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney). We also heard my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) talk about his beautiful constituency, despite the scurrilous remarks that were made by those on the Government Benches.
Like other hon. Members, I have tabled a number of early-day motions: early-day motion 730 praises the work of the Priesthill community breakfast; early-day motion 732 congratulates the work of the community kitchen in Hillington in my constituency; and, of course, early-day motion 733, a copy of which I handed over at a recent service, congratulates St Andrews and St Nicholas church, which collected food, clothes and toys for children for its Christmas collection. Those early-day motions demonstrate that there are still many challenges in the social security system that the Government need to address. All those organisations are doing great work and we should congratulate them, but they are not part of the social security system. What they are doing is picking up the failings of the social security system and we should not forget that.
This year is the centenary of Catholic education in Scotland, and early-day motion 735 gives us the opportunity to celebrate the contribution that Catholic schools have made to the nation of Scotland. They have done great work in improving educational standards. I was also delighted to table early-day motion 736 for Govan High School and its fundraising efforts for a pensioner who was robbed of his savings. The pupils managed to gather £1,000 in two weeks, and they should be congratulated.
There are not enough statues to women across the United Kingdom. Like many hon. Members, I was delighted to see the unveiling of the Mary Barbour statue in Govan—Mary Barbour led the rent strikes during the first world war when private landlords were putting up rents. That episode was shown in a BBC documentary. It was a privilege to be there for the unveiling of the statue and a privilege to table early-day motion 989 to celebrate the event. I also tabled early-day motion 731 on Tea in the Pot women’s services, which does fantastic work for women, particularly vulnerable women, in my constituency.
Like many others, I am very concerned about the actions of the Turkish military forces in Afrin, northern Syria. The Kurdish community—I have a good Kurdish community in my constituency—is very concerned about the lack of action from the UK Government and their failure to condemn the Turkish military forces. It is quite clear that the best force in terms of rolling back Daesh has come from the Kurdish community in Syria. The actions of the Turkish Government are, quite frankly, appalling and are rolling back that work.
I hope that all hon. Members enjoy the sleep, enjoy their Easter and familiarise themselves with many of the things that I referred to earlier. I look forward to seeing them all back in April, when I and my colleagues on the SNP Benches will continue to hold this Government to account.
May I start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns)? He has been an assiduous Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. Some really interesting debates have come from that Committee. I agree with him that for every pound spent locally, 70p stays in the local community. I look forward to the Great Exhibition of the North, and hope that he will also be there as one of the great exhibits of the north.
The hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) continues his quest for Southend to become a city. I hope that that is finally granted and congratulate him on his 35 years in Parliament. He touched on a number of important issues including diabetes and endometriosis, and I was pleased to see a male touching on women’s issues.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) about Simeon Andrews, who I also worked with. He worked tirelessly for social justice, and it really was a shock when he died.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) was right to mention ADHD. There are very many exceptional people who have such conditions, many of which we do not understand, and they should be supported.
I turn to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). What can I say about him? He is a member of the RAF dinner club. I hope that I can join him at one of those dinners. The RAF celebrates its centenary this Sunday, and we congratulate it on its great work keeping this country safe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) is right that there should be a strategy for older people. I am not sure where that hard line goes, or on which side I would fall.
The right side.
Indeed, the right side. I am pleased that Mayor Burnham is always very keen to get us moving. I gave him a football when he came to my constituency once. His parliamentary assistant said to me, “He’s not going to put it down,” and he did not; he carried on kicking the football. It was great, and his strategy to get us all moving is also great.
The hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) has worked tirelessly for homeless people. I am pleased that his Act will be coming into effect.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) is an outstanding parliamentarian. We look forward to the debate on the serious violence strategy. I am glad that that has been agreed and that the youth violence commission will report in the summer. Perhaps we can look forward to another debate then.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) has made an outstanding impact in the very short time that he has been here. He has even been on the Front Bench. I was astounded by how confident he was on his first outing, and I thank him for his contribution on behalf of the Opposition. He raised the case of Dr Bawa-Garba. I know that very many people in the medical profession are concerned about the decision in that case. I hope that someone at the General Medical Council will look at that again.
I can see why tourism accounts for 20% of the economy in the constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry). The Opposition Chief Whip has actually visited the area, although he claims to have driven around it, rather than to have walked. Maybe another attraction to the area would be if you, Mr Speaker and Roger Federer had a tennis match there.
I used to really enjoy doing these debates when I was on the Back Benches. It is a really lovely time. It is a nice debate to have before the recess. I thank all Members for attending and taking part. I get the best bit—to wish everybody a very happy and peaceful Easter.
I call the Deputy Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). [Interruption.] Well, he is the Deputy Leader of the House for today’s purposes. I am sorry if I have conferred upon him an official title that he does not possess but that is the role that he is playing today, and I thank him.
I enjoy learning new things every day. It is a delight to take part in a much underrated parliamentary tradition. Many of us often participate in these debates. I am disappointed that more do not realise what a great chance it is to see the better side of Parliament. Who can forget my contribution—I think that it was in 2013—when I spoke for 10 minutes on the heritage protection of the built civil nuclear environment? No one remembers it at all, but I can assure the House that it was a scintillating performance.
I find that one of the hardest things about being a Member is retaining my own sense of good will towards all Members, whatever side of the House they happen to sit on. We often forget that we all come to this place wanting to achieve the same thing, which is to make a positive difference in the communities that we serve. This can often be hard to discern as time goes by. Our debates can grow fractious. As we have heard even today, our remedies to the problems that we see day by day vary widely. We often have very different ideas as to how we should solve the problems that we come across.
Such debates underline the fact, however, that we have far more in common as Members than what divides us. The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), is a prime example of that. Week after week, he gives us opportunities to discuss the issues that matter most to Members across this House. Today, we had one such debate on autism, and it was an excellent way to spend a profitable couple of hours. I was only disappointed that I could not speak in it myself.
My last effort before being made a Minister was to chair a review of apprenticeships for people with autism for the Department for Education. That is an amazing thing. It underlines that one does not need to be a Minister to make a difference in this place. I made that point in my maiden speech. Everywhere we go in this place, as the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) pointed out, we can make a real, positive difference. I think we often underestimate just how much change we can effect without standing at this Dispatch Box.
The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee made some worthwhile points. I was delighted to hear him talk about De La Rue, which is a genuinely excellent British company printing banknotes and passports around the world. It relies on an export market that is out there. I am sure that he has heard many of the arguments that have been employed over the past few days. He will know that the legal process is ongoing. He will also know that many other jobs—some 50 jobs, I believe—have been created by the alternative bid that has been successful. The security-related work will be carried out in the UK, so there are no national security concerns. I think that we all wish De La Rue well. It is an important part of the British economy and his own local economy. I am sure that we all wish him every success in that in future.
The hon. Gentleman was right to raise the importance of the economic progress that is being made across the whole north-east. Every time we have an exchange in this Chamber, I seem to make a point about the investment that we have made in new rolling stock for the Metro—a decision that I took as a Minister at the Department for Transport. To me, that is a sign of this Government’s commitment to the north-east and the importance we place on economic growth in the region.
May I say, as a former major in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, that my hon. Friend’s point about the north-east is absolutely right? I had the great privilege to live there for many years. I commanded X-ray Company of the 6th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It is a wonderful area. There is a proposal in the north-east to have the incredible showcase that I mentioned earlier. Again, I urge all colleagues to visit it. Does my hon. Friend agree that the north-east is to be celebrated and visited?
I certainly agree; it is indeed an area to be celebrated. Perhaps my hon. Friend is thinking of moving to the north-east and seeking election in a constituency there—I do not know. He has spoken almost more about that area than his own.
The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee was kind enough to mention a constituency case that I came across involving sleep-in workers. I have met two of the many organisations involved. He may be aware that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) took a delegation to see the Prime Minister to discuss this issue. The matter is before the courts, which are carefully examining exactly how this is dealt with. We are more than aware that there is an issue to be resolved. I have seen the consequences for myself in my own constituency.
My final point to the hon. Gentleman is that I am delighted that the Great Exhibition of the North is occurring in Gateshead, tinged only by slight disappointment that it is not occurring in Blackpool. However, anything that gives me a good reason to go over to Gateshead and Newcastle has to be a good thing, and I look forward to paying a visit.
I struggle to believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) has been in this House for 35 years. Once again, he showed the virtues of compression. I sometimes think that every single one of his constituents must write to him when the pre-recess Adjournment debate beckons just so that they get a mention in his speech. I am sympathetic towards city status for Southend, but on one condition: if I support Southend’s bid, he has to support Blackpool’s. It has to be one for one.
If my hon. Friend is serious, I will certainly support his bid, because there is nothing to preclude more than one new city being created, so I hope that he will deal with the matter.
That is very true, and it is important for seaside towns to stick together whenever they can.
My hon. Friend also made an important point about elephants. I certainly agree that tourists need to be much better informed as to exactly what they are getting themselves in for. I very much welcome the support that he is giving his constituent Carla Cressy and the work that they are doing on endometriosis, which is a really important issue that does not get discussed enough.
Will the Minister give way?
On one last occasion. I am feeling generous.
Will my hon. Friend encourage as many Members as possible to share the information that we have on endometriosis, so that there is not stigma and we are able to give more help to women who suffer from it?
That is an exceedingly worthwhile point. I know that we will all want to take note of the work that my hon. Friend’s group is doing and disseminate information as widely as possible throughout our constituencies.
I very much welcome the comments that the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) made about Simeon Andrews. I was very saddened to hear of his passing. He is a fantastic example of someone who greatly enhances the work we do in this place across all parties and none, and it was a great shock to hear of that. The hon. Lady also raised important points about fentanyl and the wider problems of opioids that we are seeing across our communities. I see it in my own constituency, and it is a matter of concern, so she is quite right to raise it.
I am also glad to see the hon. Lady joining in the growing fad of vaping. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) was talking just the other day about having more vaping areas in Parliament. Never having smoked in my life, I do not quite see the appeal, but I know that for those who have smoked, vaping might well be a way to get themselves off nicotine and on to something a little bit healthier. I wish her well in her campaign.
The hon. Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) spoke powerfully and movingly about ADHD and his MSP colleague. That is an important issue. We understand people by the labels that we hang around our necks, but the label of ADHD is particularly misunderstood by many. If we can do more to explain properly what the condition is and how it is best treated and understood, that can only be a good thing. I wish them well in that campaign.
What do I say about my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart)? I am almost tempted to say nothing at all, because I cannot do it justice, but let me make an effort. He is quite right to draw attention to the RAF’s role in CBRN. As the shadow Leader of the House said, the RAF’s 100th birthday is coming up, and that may be one aspect of what the RAF is doing that we do not give sufficient attention to.
There is one thing that we forget: in celebrating 100 years of the RAF, we are also regretting the demise of the Royal Flying Corps, which was active for the duration of the first world war. We should not forget the Royal Flying Corps.
I agree entirely and thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful addition to my comments. It is important to place that on the record.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) made an important point about having a Minister for older people. I recall making a speech on that issue as a Back Bencher and being very supportive of it. Now that I am standing here, I am bound by collective responsibility, so she will have to guess what my thoughts are, but I wish her well in that cross-party campaign. She raises a worthwhile issue that covers many cross-departmental issues, and I know that many Ministers will want to think carefully about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) may be getting bored of people congratulating him on his Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, but even if he is, I will not stop, because he deserves praise and applause for what he has achieved. I well recall the issues around step-free access to his tube stations and the battle with Transport for London over getting the right amount of funding. He will be pleased to know that my successor, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), overheard it because she is sitting right next to me.
I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East that one point I made very clear when negotiating Network Rail’s funding for control period 5 was that we must have a dedicated ring-fenced fund to make sure that Access for All funding continues. I know that my hon. Friend will take up the cudgels and keep fighting to make sure that we have inclusive transport across not just London but the country as a whole. I look forward to seeing the response to the inclusive transport consultation, and I wish him well with what I hope will be his Adjournment debate on the particularly tragic case that he raised.
I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank him for his comments about ADHD and about my colleague at Holyrood. Will he extend his compliments to the all-party group on ADHD, which does an enormous amount of work in Parliament?
If I may, I will also take the opportunity, very quickly, to say that the previous debate was on autism, and it is strange how many of the sentiments expressed by Members on both sides of the House were similar to those I found myself expressing during my speech. As the Minister has rightly pointed out, there are a range of influences on people’s lives, whether it is being on the spectrum or having a diagnosis, and it is important that all such things are understood by people both in this House and outside it.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that additional comment. He makes his point well, and does not need me to add to it further.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford spoke with expertise and passion. I mentioned earlier that there are areas on which there is greater agreement in this place than we might realise, and an example of such an area is the importance of early intervention and diversion work to get people off the conveyor belt to crime before they get far along it.
May I just say that inadvertently I forget to mention the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) and his efforts with his local councils?
I thank the hon. Lady for encouraging me to do the same. We hear such points made at most business questions, so we are both very familiar with the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) mentioned, and it is important that they are placed on the record.
To go back to the more important point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford, we have put an additional £50 million into nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas. I have the fourth most deprived ward in the country in my constituency, and I understand the importance of making sure that young people have somewhere to go and have some structure in their lives. Those things can sometimes be provided by their families, but sometimes they may not be, and we should not underestimate the importance of youth provision. She made some important points, and I look forward to reading the outcome of her youth violence commission, which is an important piece of cross-party work.
I am almost tempted to communicate psychically with the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) and just stare at him to give him my response to his comments—but perhaps not; I can verbalise it if I try. We can tell that he has not been here long because he paid tribute to the Whips. If he attends future periodic Adjournment debates, I do not think he will be doing that quite so often. However, if nothing else, it is nice to know that at least one Labour Member was grateful to be staying late last night.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Forgive me, but as a former Whip, may I ask whether it is right for the Minister to denigrate the generality of Whips to new Members in the Chamber?
All I would say is that if the Minister had not done so, I would probably have done it for him.
I think it is fair to say that, not having been a Whip for very long, I am still learning how to exercise the full panoply of my powers.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East made a number of very worthwhile points, and I am sure he will participate in the debates that he identified after the Easter recess.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the House, if that is his official title, for giving way. I want to press him on the issue of GKN, because it has just been announced that it will be subject to a takeover by Melrose. In the light of that development, does the Minister agree that this urgent issue needs to be debated in this House before the takeover progresses any further?
That point is certainly well made. I was not aware of that announcement, because I have been in the Chamber for a while, but I will make sure that we raise it with the relevant Department and get him a response. When we come back after Easter, I am sure that that will be a matter for discussion in the House in some way, shape or form.
To go back to Inverness, I will have to pay a visit, if only to hunt for Nessie, about which I have been inspired by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham.
For the sake of clarity, my uncle, Gregor Bartlett, was at prep school alongside Loch Ness in 1931. He was late back to school, and he and another boy claimed that they were watching the Loch Ness monster. This grew big—The Scotsman, lots of pictures, and he was stuck with it. Only at my great uncle’s funeral was he allowed to declare that actually he had not seen the Loch Ness monster all those years ago as a boy. But I say to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry): I believe there is a Loch Ness monster!
The shocks from my hon. Friend never cease. I had assumed that he would be visiting the many distilleries in the constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), rather than the Loch Ness monster. People say that, as Catholics, we should try to give up what we most value during Lent. I always try to give up politics, but I fail hopelessly after about a day.
May I suggest that next year the hon. Gentleman might want to give up Conservatism?
There are some things that, even for the holy mother Church, go beyond what I could possibly dream of achieving. I always think that we learn a lot from early-day motions. They may cost a lot per early-day motion, but none the less I was delighted to hear about the centenary of Catholic education in Scotland. As someone who survived the Christian Brothers during my school days, I know that they have a formative influence on all our lives. I also welcome many of the other examples of good community projects that the hon. Gentleman raised in those early-day motions.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, and your Deputies, the Clerks, the Doorkeepers and all the staff—indeed, everyone who does anything in this place—for all that they do. It is right that we thank them not just today but every time that we encounter them. Without their ceaseless good will, our lives would be much more complicated, and perhaps our labours less effective.
We are coming up to the centenary of the foundation of the RAF, but there will be another anniversary while we are not here over Easter, because it is the 40th anniversary of radio broadcasts in the House of Commons. Some might think that I am making a great play to appear on “Yesterday in Parliament”, but such ambition could not be further from my mind. Who knows? I might feature on it—we just don’t know. However, it is worth remembering that 40 years ago we started being broadcast, and what was said in this place was made available to the outside world in more than just textual form.
We might be emerging into a late spring after a somewhat harsh winter, but just as in nature, so in our constituency activities. I hope we will return to our constituencies full of vim and vigour, and seeking the greater fulfilment and excitement that we get from all the constituency visits on which we will now depart. I wish everybody here a happy and joyous Eastertide.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.