The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 23 July—General debate on strengthening the Union.
Tuesday 24 July—Debate on a motion relating to the Third Report Of Session 2017-19 from the Committee On Standards, followed by a general debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming adjournment.
The business for the week commencing 3 September will include:
Monday 3 September—The House will not be sitting.
Tuesday 4 September—Second Reading of the Civil Liability Bill [Lords].
Wednesday 5 September—Remaining stages of the Tenant Fees Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Voyeurism (Offences) (No.2) Bill.
Thursday 6 September—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 7 September—The House will not be sitting.
I am also pleased to announce that there will be a debate on proxy voting in the second week of the September sitting.
As we head off for a much needed summer break, may I take this opportunity to wish Members across the House a peaceful and enjoyable few weeks, spending time with their constituents as well as with their families? Most importantly, I sincerely thank all our hard-working parliamentary and constituency staff, and the dedicated House staff, including the Clerks, Doorkeepers, catering staff, security, and all those who do so much to support our work. I wish them all a very restful and sunny recess.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business, and for the debate on proxy voting, although I still feel that that could have been held next week, rather than waiting until September.
I am not sure why the Opposition half-day debate was taken from us last week when business seems so light for next week. There is no specific debate on Monday, other than on strengthening the Union. I am hoping that that will be expanded to cover all unions—the European Union, for example, or even trade unions—but I am pleased that the Government have found something for us to discuss next week.
The list of ministerial responsibilities has been published for June 2018. My parliamentary assistant has been very assiduous in marking up the list—the green colour represents the leavers, and yellow represents the remainers. As there seems to be lots of movement, will the Leader of the House ensure an updated June 2018 list of ministerial responsibilities before the House rises?
On restoration and renewal, the Shadow Sponsor Body has now been set up and we have a Chair. Sadly, however, the lovely Members in the other place outnumber Members in this place on the body, and I hope that when the legislation comes forward that will be rectified. Will the Leader of the House say whether there have been any draft instructions to consult, and when the legislation will come before the House?
Later, as the right hon. Lady has said, there will be a debate on the independent complaints grievance delivery report, and I congratulate everyone who took part in that report. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, will be responding. That is appropriate, given that she was at the first meeting in Downing Street, and led for the Opposition on the delivery review. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) who has used her great expertise as a trade unionist to enhance the quality of the discussion and report. I also add my thanks to all the staff, some of whom had to carry out their own jobs alongside working on this report. I thank all the experts and Members who have been involved and served on both review bodies.
I particularly want to thank the Leader of the House, and acknowledge her determination and commitment to seeing this through. It has not gone unnoticed that there will now be a workable solution. The culture in this place will change.
I am so pleased that the Prime Minister listens to business questions. Today, she is visiting the border. But it is quite confusing, isn’t it? There was an agreement. Then there was a White Paper, over which two Cabinet Ministers resigned because they did not like it. The Prime Minister has now agreed to the amendments, so it is not clear where that leaves the White Paper. If it is the same White Paper, why did the two Cabinet Ministers resign? Should we not have a second White Paper, the miserable Brexit plan mark II? What about the other White Paper on the withdrawal agreement, which was due to be published on 18 July? The Vote Office confirmed that the Government have cancelled it. When will it be published?
Will the Leader of the House look again the bizarre situation of the Government not voting against Opposition motions? We have got to the stage where we have an oral statement in certain situations, but yesterday two very important statements, on social care and school funding, were put out in written form. It is not right that we cannot hold the Government to account on those two most important matters. Will the right hon. Lady please review the situation? If the Government do not like the motions, they should vote against them.
The School Teachers’ Review Body report is usually published before the end of recess. Will the Leader of the House say when it will be published? Schools are already setting their budgets. They want to know whether they will be responsible for lifting the pay cap. They are already struggling with the funding formula, so I hope they will not be responsible for lifting it and that the money will come from central Government. May we therefore have a statement on the matter from the Secretary of State for Education?
Mr Speaker, I want to add my thanks to you and your office for their unfailing courtesy; the Deputy Speakers; the Clerk of the House for his judgments; the House staff; the Serjeant at Arms and his office; Phil and the Doorkeepers; Hansard; the House of Commons Library on its 200th anniversary for its fantastic independent advice, which has integrity running all through it; the police and the security; the cooks and the cleaners; and everyone who keeps this place in working order. I also want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) and everyone in the Opposition Whips Office for all their hard work behind the scenes, and of course everyone in my office.
Yesterday was Nelson Mandela Day. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is dedicating this year to fighting poverty, honouring Nelson Mandela’s leadership on and devotion to fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all. He said:
“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”
I wish everyone a peaceful recess.
I thank the hon. Lady for her very warm words about Nelson Mandela. She is exactly right to pay tribute to him. He did so much in the whole area of truth and reconciliation, and on the importance of peace instead of continuing to wage war against each other. He was so right and he will always be remembered for that.
The hon. Lady mentions Monday’s debate on strengthening the Union. There was some discussion yesterday about having the proxy voting debate on Monday. I genuinely feel that it is important we have that debate, so that issues can be raised: potential unintended consequences, and the very key points about when a proxy vote should be used and who it should be used by. I am very keen that all Members get the chance to do that and I am aware that many Members would not be here to take part in the debate if it were on Monday. I hope she accepts that. I will be bringing it forward as soon as possible.
I will look into ministerial responsibilities. I think the hon. Lady means for July 2018, not June 2018.
The hon. Lady also had a question about the Shadow Sponsor Body. We discussed this at House Commission. We are delighted that we do now have the Shadow Sponsor Body in place for the restoration and renewal of the Palace. It is of course right that there are four Lords Members of the Shadow Sponsor Body to only three Commons Members. As she will be aware, it was agreed that the Commons Commission would write to the Lords Commission suggesting that when the body is set up in statute that will be reviewed. She asks when the legislation will come forward. I can tell her that it has been agreed that we will bring forward a draft Bill, through joint scrutiny by both Houses, in the autumn. It is in draft form already. I have been working on it very carefully with the parliamentary counsel over the past few weeks.
I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the hon. Members for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) and for York Central (Rachael Maskell) and all those, including the shadow Leader of the House, who have worked so hard on this new complaints procedure. Today, Parliament can be proud; we are tackling our challenges and shortcomings and we want to be leading the world in treating everyone with dignity and respect. Following the debate later today, we will be turning to a new chapter, and I look forward to that.
The hon. Lady asks about the White Paper on the withdrawal agreement, and she will know that that will come forward in due course. We are not quite at the point of the withdrawal arrangements being finalised. It was very important that the Prime Minister’s White Paper following the Chequers agreement was brought forward. My views on that are on the record: I believe that it continues to uphold the will of the people.
The hon. Lady asks about voting on Opposition day motions. As I have made clear, we will continue to support the Standing Orders for Opposition days, and when the House does not divide and a motion is passed, the Government will come forward with very specific actions to be taken as a result of a motion passed by this House.
I, too, thank everyone who makes this Parliament work, and that relates to the question I would like to put to the Leader of the House. This House relies much on tradition and trust, and a number of things have happened recently that have disturbed me. I was quite ill when we were voting on the EU withdrawal Bill, and there were a lot of votes. I came in to vote and after a number of votes, the Labour Whips agreed to nod me through. That courtesy should be extended to everyone, and I do not think that happened recently. I am very concerned to hear that a pairing was broken, and I am very concerned that we tried to end Parliament two days early, which I think was for party political reasons. May we have a statement from the Leader of the House when we come back, or early next week, on this place and the fact that we must uphold the rights of this House and not hide behind small print because, otherwise, this place will not work?
My hon. Friend is of course right to raise any concerns that he has, and I will always be happy to discuss them with him. As I said yesterday in the urgent question, a pair was broken. People were extremely apologetic. It was an error. In addition, I set out again that I absolutely uphold the rights and conventions of this House at all times, and will always continue to do so.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. Usually, when I get on my feet on a Thursday morning, I gently chide the Leader of the House about the performance of her Government this week. There might be the occasional rhetorical flourish, an over-emphasis here and there perhaps, or even a bit of exaggeration to help to fully describe the current predicament. This week, that is not necessary, because there simply is not a sufficient range of adjectives to adequately describe this dysfunctional Government, the current state of their Brexit disaster and their chaotic stewardship of prosecuting this mad enterprise. The chance of a no deal Brexit has apparently been raised from “possible” to “likely”. Let us remember what that means: endless queues at our ports, shops running out of food and hospitals without medicines. May we have an urgent and timely debate when we get back about what all this mad no deal Brexit actually means?
We are coming back next week, and I think we are all delighted about that. I do not know what the Leader of the House was thinking about by trying to adjourn this place five days early and how she thought for a minute that she would get away with it, given that, effectively, we have a leaderless country and an unprecedented crisis. Apparently, we cannot plan our recess to accommodate school holidays throughout the United Kingdom, but we can go into an early recess to help a beleaguered Prime Minister. We will be back to debate strengthening the Union—I presume that it is our Union, and not the associated union of beekeepers. Let us hope that the Leader of the House might clarify that.
After all these pious apologies yesterday about the breaking of pairing arrangements with the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), there are stories in the press today that the Chief Whip told three Tory MPs to break their whipping arrangements. Will there now be a full inquiry into what exactly happened? I am just so pleased that the Scottish National party have absolutely nothing to do with this broken whipping arrangement.
There are all sorts of rumours today about the date of the Budget. Will the Leader of the House give us some clarification? Will it be September; will it be November; or will it be at the end of the year?
Finally, Mr Speaker, I wish you and all the staff of the House—all those who work in the place and make it easier for us all to do our jobs as Members of Parliament—a good holiday. I say to you all, “Enjoy it, because this will be the last year in which you will be in the European Union. Next year you will be classed as a ‘European other’, with all the travel misery that that is likely to bring as you go off to the costas and playas.”
Well, Mr Speaker, I rather like bees myself. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise the very important debate on Monday, which will indeed be about strengthening the Union of the four nations of the United Kingdom. I look forward very much to seeing all his colleagues in the Chamber as we discuss the means by which we can keep the United Kingdom together—stronger and better together.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the motion calling for an early recess. I can tell him that the idea was suggested by representatives of a number of political parties. It was discussed in the usual channels, and the Government decided to put it to the House so that the House could decide. On Tuesday, it became clear that there was no desire to do that, which was fine, and which is why the motion was not moved. This was about trying to listen to the views of the House.
I am very much looking forward to next week. We have some important business to get through—questions to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and some interesting debates in Westminster Hall on, for instance, the remit of the Office for Budget Responsibility and nuclear investment—and, of course, we all look forward sincerely to hearing from my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), who for once is not present for business questions, but who is one of the stalwarts of the pre-recess Adjournment debate.
I know that you are aware that I go on about local government, Mr Speaker, but I should like to have another go at it now. We are going through a transformation at the moment. Nearly 100 members of staff of Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council have applied for redundancy, and we are in trouble when it comes to actually manning the councils. Local government is under enormous pressure, so please may we have a debate in Government time on where we are going with local government in the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend often raises local government in his constituency. No doubt he is pleased to learn that oral questions to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will take place on Monday, when he will be able to raise the issue directly with Ministers.
Just in case Back Benchers are wondering why the Backbench Business Committee has not given them time for a debate on 6 September, as the Leader of the House suggested, it is because on 6 September the business will be agreed by the Backbench Business Committee but determined by the Liaison Committee, so the debate is not in our gift.
I note that in the future business section of the Order Paper—I have written to the Leader of the House about this—the business in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 4 September, the day on which we return from the recess, is still shown as scheduled to begin at 9.30 am. That seems incongruous, and I hope it can be fixed. Members have to make travel arrangements before then.
I am looking to my officials, but I believe we have changed that. I believe the motion went through yesterday, but I shall have to check. I was pleased to try and help out, and if those times have not yet been changed, they certainly will be.
I can only agree with the hon. Gentleman: we all love bees. They play a very important part, and I think that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) should repent of his slightly anti-bee approach.
He must beehive himself.
He certainly must beehive himself, at all times.
Let me say again to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) that I look forward to visiting the great exhibition of the north. I think that he will have received my letter informing him that I shall be in his constituency next week and that I look forward to it very much.
A few weeks ago, the Government announced that they were likely over the summer to consult on changes to the planning process for shale gas and fracking. There is a shale gas application in my constituency, and this is of concern to a number of residents in my part of the world. Will the Minister consider giving Government time for a debate on shale gas and, in particular, proposed changes to permitted development rights?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue, and I am well aware that very often constituents have concerns. As an ex-Energy Minister, I can tell him that I am very supportive both of the concept of shale gas exploration and shale gas as a future source of revenue and energy security for this country and, importantly, of a very robust regulatory environment for shale gas. As he will know, the Government support shale gas exploration, and we are launching two consultations: one on the principle of including shale gas projects in the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime and the other on permitted development rights. We look forward to many stakeholders contributing to those consultations to ensure that planning decisions are fast but fair to all.
Listening to the Leader of the House this morning and looking back at the record for yesterday, twice now she has told this place that what happened with the breach of pairing arrangements was a result of administrative error. If the report in The Times newspaper is to be believed, it was a result not of accident, but of design. So when she returns to the Dispatch Box, I hope that she will choose her words carefully, because she may have been set up to mislead the House, however inadvertently, which would be serious. [Interruption.] Before Government Members heckle, I will say that some silence and humility might be required, because the idea that pregnant women and new mothers will be cheated out of their vote and representation to save the skin of this shambolic Government is an absolute disgrace and an affront to the House.
To add insult to injury, we now have to wait until September for a debate—a debate—on what should be a sensible arrangement for proxy voting, so will the Leader of the House at least come to the Dispatch Box to confirm that when we debate proxy voting in September, it will be on a motion, because actions will speak louder than words and the Government have shown through their behaviour this week that acting according to courtesies and conventions is not enough because this Government, with their shambolic record, cannot be trusted?
The words of the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) stand for themselves; it is absolutely abhorrent for him to be calling me out in particular when I came to the Dispatch Box yesterday with exactly the regret and sorrow he is now falsely calling for. It is a deep regret to me that that breaking of the pair happened in error. I assured the House yesterday that it was an error that the Chief Whip and the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), had both apologised for.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there were three pairs on Tuesday. I myself was one of them; I did not receive any call from anyone telling me to vote. I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that, because he is calling me something that is not acceptable parliamentary language. I have made absolutely clear my personal commitment to resolving this issue so that new parents can spend time with their new babies uninterrupted. What happened was an error that has been copiously and profusely apologised for, and the hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself.
Order. There are strong feelings on this matter, and I have heard very clearly what the Leader of the House has said by way of her account. I know that she will not, however, cavil, or argue with me, when I say that I am the arbiter of what is parliamentary language, and no unparliamentary language has been used; I am clear about that and the Clerk is very clear about that. The hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) has obviously irritated the right hon. Lady, but he used the word “inadvertently”. There is no breach of order; nothing disorderly whatsoever has happened. We do need to be clear about that.
My right hon. Friend will know from her own constituency experience the problems that people affected by HS2 have in selling their property and not getting a quick resolution. There is no good resolution to this, and that applies even more to my constituents who are affected by the roadworks on the M6 and cannot get anyone to buy their property, the value of which has fallen precipitately as a result of the disturbance. When people are forced into a situation of being unable to sell their properties because Government action—whether in relation to road, rail, airports or anything else—causes the value of the property to plummet, can we ensure that there is justice for them and that they can sell their property at market value or get the appropriate compensation?
My hon. Friend raises an important point about compensation for those affected by Government projects. I encourage him to talk to the HS2 mitigation and compensation forum that I established—back in 2011, I believe—which takes forward particular issues for constituents who are seeking proper compensation for such problems, particularly with regard to selling their homes.
Under new data protection rules, subject access requests to GP practices and NHS services can no longer be charged for. I have received a deputation from GP surgeries in my constituency saying that this is already causing undue cost to them. May we have a statement, either from the Department of Health and Social Care or from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to explain how they might be able to help with this probably inadvertent issue, because it is costing NHS services money that they can hardly afford?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important issue. I do not have the answer right here, but I encourage him to attend Health and Social Care questions on Tuesday, because I am sure that this will be something that Ministers will be keen to try to address.
Official figures show that house building is booming in Erewash, with the number of completed homes up by 75% and the number of homes under construction up by 70% on the previous year. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a vindication of the Government’s housing policy and that it is good news not only for those in the construction industry in Erewash but for those who aspire to own their own homes? Will she grant Government time to debate the benefits to the economy and to the wellbeing of our constituents of building more homes?
I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend on the success in building new homes in Erewash. The Government are absolutely clear that fixing the broken housing market is a top domestic priority for us. Housing needs to be more affordable, and we want people to have the security of a home of their own, which means building many more of the right homes in the right places. We have set out an ambition to deliver 300,000 homes a year on average by the middle of the next decade, and we have an ambitious package of reform to support that.
Mr Speaker, you very kindly granted me an urgent question yesterday in relation to the breach of the pair involving my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) on Tuesday night. You might recall that I indicated during that urgent question that I had received an apology from the Government Chief Whip, which of course I accepted, but that I did not quite understand how things had come to pass in this way. I indicated also that I would pursue the matter with the Government Chief Whip. I have to tell you and the House that, subsequent to the urgent question, I met the Government Chief Whip and that he offered me a fuller explanation, which I have considered very carefully overnight. Regrettably, I have to say that I still do not understand how this highly regrettable state of affairs came to pass, so today I have a somewhat novel request for the Leader of the House, which is that the Government Chief Whip should come to the Dispatch Box to make a statement himself.
I have been here long enough to know the conventions, Mr Speaker, and I know that the convention is that the Government Chief Whip does not speak in the House, but conventions are exactly that. Ours is a system of checks and balances, and if we take out a check we have to adjust a balance. What happened on Tuesday night did serious damage to the pairing system on which we have all relied over the years, and for that reason I suggest that it is necessary to re-establish the basis of trust and the confidence that agreements will be honoured that we should have this most novel departure. This is not a suggestion that I make lightly, but I hope that the Leader of the House will take it seriously and that this is something that we will see happen.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his measured words, and I am glad that he met the Chief Whip. As I made clear yesterday, I have been absolutely assured that it was an administrative error. I sought to explain to the House that pairing often involves an absence of an hour or two, so the administrative complexity of managing temporary pairings during the course of a day is significant. I also stated that, by virtue of my conversations with my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), it was absolutely clear to me that he was totally unaware that he was paired with the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson). I texted the hon. Lady to make it clear that I will continue to ensure that her maternity pair is in place and I reassure the House that that is the case. I apologise again for the error and assure the House that it did not change the result, but I will redouble my efforts to ensure that the pairing system remains in place.
Like me, many in the House will be suffering from football withdrawal symptoms now that the World cup is over, but they need not worry for long, for as I speak the qualifying rounds of the Europa league and Champions league are under way. While smaller teams, such as Hibs and a couple called Celtic and Rangers, are already engaged, one week today sees the battle of Britain game between Burnley and the mighty and, some might say, famous Aberdeen take place at Pittodrie, with the Dons trying to win their first silverware since 1983. In wishing all those teams, but especially Aberdeen, all the best over the next few weeks as they try to qualify for Europe, will the Leader of the House consider a debate on the importance of our national game to local communities and our economy?
I am so glad that my hon. Friend has raised the matter of football again, because we have not talked about it much recently, have we? We would all welcome many more debates on football as our England team no doubt makes their way up the world rankings once more. I hope that the game between Aberdeen and Burnley next week will be a cracking match to watch, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising such an important subject.
I have also been in the House for quite a long time, and I must tell the Leader of the House, for whom I have great respect, that Tuesday’s events were cataclysmic for this House’s reputation. We are supposed to be the mother of Parliaments, but my constituents think that there was skulduggery on Tuesday night. They do not get messages or texts from the Leader of the House; they read in the newspapers that something dodgy went on and they say, “Why can’t it get put right? Why couldn’t you have another vote?” This goes to the heart of the reputation of this House. It was one of the most important votes in the history of this House, yet something strange went on that was the responsibility not of the Leader of the House, but of the Whips. I say in all earnestness that things must be put right, and I associate myself with the comments of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) who thinks that the Chief Whip should come to the Dispatch Box.
The hon. Gentleman who, as he says, has been in this place for a long time knows that there is collective responsibility and that the Leader of the House speaks for the Government, and I have apologised for something that should not have happened. I have been clear about my personal regard for the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire and that I would not under any circumstances condone anything that would be seen as deliberately breaking a pair. I have been assured that such a thing did not happen and that it was a mistake.
Blackrod Primary School in my constituency has recently been awarded the prestigious Artsmark platinum award. This Government have the right idea in supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our schools, but can we have a debate on upgrading STEM to STEAM to fully appreciate arts, culture and creativity?
I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Blackrod Primary School in his constituency on earning that fantastic award. The Government want all children to have a broad and balanced curriculum, and the creative arts play an important role. We are investing nearly £500 million of funding from 2016 to 2020 for a diverse portfolio of music and arts education programmes that are designed to improve arts provision for all children.
NHS Property Services has been required to dispose of the Bootham Park Hospital site. The city urgently needs capacity for new health services, yet developers want to move on to the site to build luxury apartments—we have far too many of those. Can we have a debate about public interest in the disposure of public sites?
The hon. Lady raises an important issue. Having been to her constituency, I know it is very beautiful and I totally understand that there is a lack of space for things like a new hospital. I encourage her to raise the matter with Ministers at Health questions next Tuesday by asking what they can do to try to help to protect that space.
Four weeks ago, Bishop James Jones published a report on the Gosport War Memorial Hospital showing that at least 560 elderly patients had inadvertently died as a result of opiate transfusions. I put it in layman’s terms by saying that at least 560 people were killed.
I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister asking that the relatives get the justice they deserve and that the Government implement a criminal inquiry. The term for the Prime Minister to respond to an MP is 20 days, and I still have not heard. Tomorrow is the 20th day. If I do not hear back from the Prime Minister about getting a public inquiry, will the Leader of the House allow a debate in the Chamber on this incredibly important issue?
I completely share the hon. Gentleman’s grave concern about those reported deaths due to opiates. He raises an important issue, and I recommend that he seeks a BackBench Business debate so that all Members will be able to share their concerns and the experiences in their constituencies.
Homebuyers in Woodsend in my constituency have suffered shoddy building work and very poor customer service from Persimmon, which informed them that it is not its policy “to deal with MPs” when I tried to intervene to help my constituents. May we have a debate on the recommendation of the all-party parliamentary group on excellence in the built environment for a mandatory ombudsman scheme for house builders?
The hon. Lady will have heard that roar of approval for her suggestion. All hon. Members are concerned about house building standards, and it is vital that house builders take seriously the need to provide quality products to those who, let us face it, often struggle to afford them. I recommend that she seeks a BackBench Business debate, because I think there would be cross-party support for raising these important matters.
Wales was due to get £2 billion of EU structural funds between 2014 and 2020, and those funds are to be replaced by the hitherto mythical shared prosperity fund. Forward-looking organisations are now thinking about their planning cycle post 2020, but they are hampered by the lack of any detail. Can we have an early debate on the shared prosperity fund, hopefully preceded by some detail as to its operation?
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of the shared prosperity fund, and I sincerely recommend that he raises it in Monday’s debate on strengthening the United Kingdom. He will, of course, be aware that there has been significant investment in the city deals and growth deals in Wales. Nevertheless, he raises an important point that I encourage him to raise with Ministers on Monday.
We are approaching the school holidays, when many children will lose the important contribution that a free school meal makes to their overall sense of wellbeing. Will the right hon. Lady therefore make time for a debate early next week on how the Government can help plug that gap and better support provision to tackle holiday hunger?
The hon. Lady raises a matter of great concern to Members right across the House: many children suffering nutritionally during the school holidays. I know of a couple of schools in my constituency whose headteachers worry about that, and the hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the issue. She might seek an Adjournment debate, if Mr Speaker were happy to grant one, so that she could raise the issue directly with Ministers.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for confirming which Union will be discussed in the debate on Monday—it is just as well it is not a debate on the Conservative and Unionist party being strengthened! I notice that almost all the business for the first week back is likely to be subject to the EVEL—English votes for English laws—procedure, so it is ironic that it comes on the back of a debate on strengthening the Union. Is it not time that we at least had a little balance in how the business is presented? Indeed, is it not time we simply got rid of the EVEL procedure altogether?
I am a fan of the EVEL procedure. The issue of devolved Administrations and the very many powers that have rightly been devolved to the individual nations of the UK means there is the important need for issues affecting only England or only England and Wales to be voted on by those relevant Members and not by all Members of this House. That is an equal and fair approach to what has been a very beneficial devolution settlement right across the UK.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether the Government still intend to publish a draft law of property Bill, which was announced in 2016? It is of particular relevance to the residents of Llandevaud, who next week will see their communal common come to auction because someone has bought up an old manorial title.
The hon. Lady raises an interesting and particular question, and I genuinely do not know the answer to it. [Laughter.] There are lots of things I do know the answer to, but that is not one of them. If she would like to write to me, I can take it up with the relevant Department or of course Ministers will provide her directly with the answer.
My constituent Lisa Conway recently experienced a burglary at her home. The police ascertained that access was gained to the property by using force to prise open a window. However, her insurance company, Policy Expert, refused to help because it said “forcible and violent” entry was not used to access her property. So may we have a debate on how we can stop companies such as Policy Expert exploiting our constituents through ridiculous legalese in these insurance policies?
First, let me say that I am really sorry to hear about that break-in. Having a home broken into is traumatising for families, and being treated in that way is just appalling. I certainly encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can raise the particular concerns about that insurance company directly with Ministers.
The Assam state government in India has asked everyone to prove that they were in the country before 1971. Many of those who came to India without any paperwork are unable to do so. If residents cannot prove this before 30 July they will be declared illegal immigrants. Millions of residents do not have this proof because they had never needed it before. The very serious concern is that, as was the case with the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, this could lead to millions of impoverished Muslims being stripped of their citizenship and deported—or even worse. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this pressing issue?
This is a very serious issue and, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, it could have urgent and serious ramifications. I encourage him to take it up with Ministers directly in the short period before recess, so that he can find out exactly what they are able to do to help.
The Safe Anchor Trust is a charity in my constituency that does wonderful work with people who are disadvantaged through social isolation, age, deprivation and physical or mental disabilities. I have seen at first hand the incredible work the trust does, and I am sure that the Leader of the House would be very welcome were she to take one of its wonderful boat trips. The trust is entirely reliant on volunteers and donations to survive. May we have a debate on how we can support such groups, which are such an asset in our communities?
I join the hon. Lady in congratulating that charity on the amazing work that it does. There are so many voluntary organisations and community-based societies that do so much for us all. I encourage her to seek a BackBench Business debate so that she and other Members can share the excellent examples in their own constituencies.
Can we have a debate or statement on the work of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the annual report and accounts of which are published today? The latest figures I have seen have shown a huge increase in the number of potential victims of forced labour: from 2016 to 2017 it rose by some 47%. This is the UK in 2018, and we have huge numbers of people in forced work. It is unacceptable and we need to speak about and debate it much more than we do.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: it is appalling that in this day and age there continues to be so much forced labour. I am sure he recognises that in her previous role the Prime Minister did everything that she could, including introducing the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to try to stamp out this absolutely appalling treatment of human beings. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise it directly with Ministers.
We now know from the findings of the Electoral Commission that the Brexit result may have been bought and sold with dark money and gold by a sick parcel of rogues in these nations. Regardless of whether we debated or voted to remain or to leave, it is now being treated as a serious criminal matter, so may we have a debate in this place, as soon as possible after recess, about the validity, legitimacy and, indeed, legality of upholding the EU referendum result?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Electoral Commission is an independent organisation that has made its findings and referred the matter to the police for a criminal investigation, and it is not the policy of this House to comment on ongoing criminal investigations. I have no doubt that there will be many opportunities to raise the issue over the forthcoming weeks.
Last week, I visited the Endeavour unit at Parc prison in my constituency. It is a specialist unit set up for ex-serving military personnel and looks to use their experience to deal with reoffending. May we have a debate on Parliament’s and the Government’s ongoing responsibility to ex-serving personnel, and how we can utilise their capabilities, perhaps in reserve units?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the importance that we place on making sure that those who have served us in our armed forces have meaningful and useful jobs and lives when they leave the forces. I am delighted to hear about the work that is being done in her constituency to help them to help others to get off the offending route. The hon. Lady is right that we should do everything that we possibly can. She will be aware that the Government introduced and put into law the military covenant, to make sure that we support our armed forces as far as possible. I encourage her to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that we can talk about what more we can do to support the wonderful people who have given so much to our country.
Last December, I launched the much-needed campaign for Lucy’s law, to ban third-party puppy sales in pet shops and to outlaw vile puppy farming. Since then, almost 100 Members from all parties have backed my early-day motion 695.
[That this House calls for the immediate ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third-party commercial dealers; recognises that implementing Lucy’s Law will be a major step forward in putting an end to unnecessary animal cruelty and helping to eradicate forms of irresponsible dog breeding and selling, such as puppy farming, smuggling and trafficking; notes that irresponsible breeding practices, such as puppy farms, are enabled and even encouraged by the third-party trade in puppies that are sold away from their mothers and place of birth in locations such as pet shops; and acknowledges that Lucy’s Law will help to protect breeding dogs and puppies by making all breeders accountable and transparent, ensuring consistency with the Government’s advice that purchasers should see puppies interacting with their mother in the place that they were born.]
There was consensus in the Chamber after our debate on the related e-petition, so may we have a statement on the introduction of legislation? It is much needed to protect puppies from odious puppy farmers who seek to undermine their and their mothers’ welfare.
I completely agree with the hon. Lady that this is an incredibly important issue. When I was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department was looking carefully at the matter, and we brought in new laws on licensing. There is also a knock-on impact for those who purchase the puppies and take them into their lives when they have been deeply damaged and traumatised early in their life. The hon. Lady is right to raise the issue and I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can talk to DEFRA Ministers directly about what more can be done.
For her summer reading, I offer the Leader of the House a copy of the newly published report of the all-party group on home electrical safety titled “Electrical products: setting the course for safety”. We are all acutely aware of the importance of protecting our constituents from fires caused by domestic appliances. When the House returns, may we have a debate on a Government strategy to reduce fires caused by domestic appliances?
That sounds like a very sparky report—[Interruption.] Sorry. Certainly, the hon. Lady is raising a very important issue. Household fires are devastating, as we saw in the tragic Grenfell disaster, and she is right to raise this very important issue. I sincerely hope that, come the autumn, she can at least seek a Back-Bench debate so that hon. Members can share their experiences.
A veterinary practice in my constituency has plugged the skills gap by employing an Australian vet on a youth mobility visa, but the problem is that the visa runs out in September. It is well known that there is a shortage of vets in the UK, but the cap on tier 2 visas is causing vets problems in getting visas so that they can continue working. May we have a statement about the merits of exempting vets from the cap altogether, and, more importantly, about how I can expedite a decision so that Jock Patterson can continue working in my constituency rather than being sent home to Australia?
The Leader of the House will know that the housing crisis blights communities across our United Kingdom. Will she find time for a debate on the pay, terms and conditions of the senior management of housing associations? Money should be put into building decent and affordable homes for all our constituents, not filling bosses’ pay packets. I want to know what the Government can do about this.
The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) is very welcome to provide an answer if she should care to do so.
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. He will be aware that housing is the top domestic priority for this Government. We are determined to deliver 300,000 new homes on average every year by the mid-2020s. It is vital that we provide more social and affordable housing. More than £9 billion is going into our affordable homes programme. He raises a very specific issue, which I encourage him to raise at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday.
May we have a debate on the failure of the Indian high commission’s consular services in responding to MPs and their constituents? I currently have two relatively simple cases that have been waiting for months, including a constituent who needs to travel to Kolkata for her PhD studies and has been issued with a visa for entirely the wrong dates. The consular services are just not responding; they have asked me to WhatsApp them rather than going through proper channels, and getting a response has been just about impossible.
I am very sorry to hear that. That is a challenge because I think what the hon. Lady is seeking is better administrative procedures in other consulates and, obviously, that is not something that the UK Government can influence. However, if she would like to raise that in a written question to Ministers, I am sure that they will take up on her behalf the challenge of trying to influence other consulates in London to the benefit of her constituents.
I have been battling for a number of years with Persimmon, the house building company, which has built some homes in my constituency whose gardens have been slipping into the drain. I have been battling for years, and it was only when I said to Persimmon that I was going to raise the matter on the Floor of the House that I was able to get a meeting with Simon Usher, one of its managers in Yorkshire. Since then, the matter seems to have gone cold again. I absolutely support the call of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) for a debate, because I do not think that this is a lone case, and it certainly seems that having an ombudsman would be really effective and something that we would all use.
I can say to both hon. Ladies that when there is clearly cross-House support for a debate, I do try to seek Government time when I can. Obviously time is at a premium, but there is considerable concern about this issue across the House, and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) is absolutely right to raise it in this place. I encourage her to take it up with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Monday at oral questions.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful that you are allowing me to raise this point of order at this time, with the Leader of the House still on the Treasury Bench. It has come to light that PICT, which provides parliamentary ICT support to Members, has seemingly decided, without any prior consultation, to close down Members’ second email accounts, claiming it is due to a limited number of licences being available. You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the second email account is a vital tool for MPs in their office management. I ask the Leader of the House to take steps to stop this from happening until there has been a proper consultation and there is proper understanding of what the decision means, and until alternative arrangements have been put in place to allow Members to manage their emails effectively.
I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. Although, quite clearly, it is not a point of order for the Chair in connection with proceedings in the Chamber, it is a very important point affecting a great many colleagues in the House. The Leader of the House will have heard the point, and I will make sure that the matter is drawn to the attention of Mr Speaker. Let us hope that by these various means the matter also comes to the attention of those who organise our sometimes reliable and sometimes not reliable IT service.
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I request your advice on whether there might be a way, prior to the recess, to bring clarity to this topic so that we know what we might need to plan for over the summer?
I appreciate the hon. Lady’s question. Now that the matter has been raised, many people will want clarity as soon as possible. I will try to ensure that an answer is brought by tomorrow, and I am sure that Mr Speaker will also require that, in so far as he is able to do so.