Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 10 September—General debate on legislating for the withdrawal agreement.
Tuesday 11 September—Remaining stages of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, followed by motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill.
Wednesday 12 September—General debate on the Salisbury incident.
Thursday 13 September—General debate on proxy voting, followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 14 September—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 8 October will include:
Monday 8 October—The House will not be sitting.
Tuesday 9 October—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
I am delighted that we are bringing forward a debate on proxy voting next week because I know how important that issue is to many Members across the House. It will be an opportunity for all views to be heard. I confirm that the Government will then bring forward a substantive motion, and it is my intention to do so as soon as practically possible. I am fully committed to making progress on this issue, to ensure that life as both an MP and a new parent is more compatible. May I take this opportunity to welcome everyone back to Westminster? In addition to the important constituency work that goes on over the summer, I hope that all colleagues got the chance for some relaxation.
I thank the Leader of the House for outlining the business for next week, but it is somewhat surprising that it is so light. In the week commencing 8 October we have business only for Monday and Tuesday, so will the Leader of the House confirm whether Wednesday and Thursday have been cancelled? I do not know whether she heard the Solicitor General on “Westminster Hour” on 5 August, when he said that there was a fair amount of information to get through and that we would have to look at recesses. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman is a very capable, able and assiduous Minister. Will the Leader of the House indicate whether the Government are considering cancelling recesses and, if so, which ones, because we do need to plan? As one newspaper put it, in a pithy headline, “Christmas is cancelled”.
I agree with the Leader of the House about the debate on proxy voting, which has been scheduled for next Thursday, but does she know about new research, published by the shadow Secretary of State for Health, revealing that nearly half of England’s maternity units were closed to new mothers at some point in 2017, up on previous years? The most commonly reported reasons for closures were capacity and staffing issues. The latest estimate from the Royal College of Midwives is that NHS England has a shortage of 3,500 midwives. May we have a debate on that?
The Leader of the House has said several times that she will be able to provide extra sitting days for private Members’ Bills. Will she announce the next sitting days?
The Boundary Commission has sent its report to the Minister for the Cabinet Office. The Government should have laid it immediately—we all got the email yesterday. In the interests of transparency, will the Leader of the House say when it will be published and when we can have a debate on it?
The Leader of the House has been admonishing lots of people, among them Michel Barnier, warning that
“the European Commission needs to take it very…seriously. They need to stop all of this rhetoric around ‘we don’t like it, we don’t approve it’”,
but that is what some Conservative Members have been saying. They all turned up to the Prime Minister’s house party, but little does the poor beleaguered Prime Minister know they are now playing a different game, and it is called Chuck Chequers. Or are they playing Chaos? The Secretary of State for International Trade said last Sunday that he did not believe the Chancellor’s prediction of the effect on the economy of no deal. There is no solution to the Irish border, but an hon. Member weighs in and says his solution is that people should be inspected just as they were in the troubles. That is deeply disturbing. The people of Ireland chose peace, not to be divided. Or what about the former Minister advising people to invest in gold to shield them from a no deal Brexit at the same time as advocating one? Some people cannot even buy school uniforms, let alone invest in gold.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House has seen the poll of 44 Tory marginals, according to which three quarters of people are dissatisfied with Ministers’ handling of Brexit. It is not just Tory marginal that are dissatisfied; it is the whole country. It is chaos. We are now told that the Budget might be at a different time. Will she confirm whether the Budget will be in October or whether, as some Treasury sources have indicated, it will be in December? Have there been discussions about a change in date? Will it in fact be an autumn/winter Budget?
There is more chaos with the roll-out of universal credit. I do not know whether the Leader of the House has seen the Resolution Foundation report published this week, but low-paid working families will be affected. Can she say whether the Department for Work and Pensions is in a state of preparedness for roll-out so that people do not suffer?
No sooner were our backs turned than the Members’ Centre was renamed the “Customer Services Hub”. Members are not customers. We are trying to do our work. We are sometimes chucked out of Committee Rooms because there are not enough rooms for Select Committees. The centre offered privacy, but now we cannot have it. Will the Leader of the House please look into that?
Will the Leader of the House and other hon. Members join me and my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), who chairs the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, in opposing the relocation of the Emmeline Pankhurst memorial from Victoria Tower gardens to Regent’s park? The planning application has been made to Westminster Council, and all Members should object. It is right that the memorial overlooks Parliament. This in the week when Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who was overlooked in the Nobel citation despite also being part of the discovery of pulsars, is donating money to encourage women in physics to overcome unconscious bias. We may have come a long way, but, to paraphrase Robert Frost, there are many miles to go before we sleep.
I thank the hon. Lady for that tour de force across all areas of government. I shall try to do justice to it.
First, on the proposal to move the Emmeline Pankhurst statue, the idea is to move it in order to have a much bigger one in Parliament Square. That is the ambition of the advocates of that proposal. I know there are quite strongly held views, but I just want to clarify that point for the record.
The hon. Lady asks about the cancellation of recesses. There is no plan to cancel recesses. The business managers are looking carefully at recesses. Obviously, we are very much on the front foot in organising, for example, secondary legislation, as well as the passage of primary legislation, to make sure we enable all Members to have the right amount of scrutiny time in this place, while ensuring they have the opportunity to carry out their constituency work and have a bit of a break from time to time.
The hon. Lady mentions maternity unit closures. I share her very grave concern about that. The same thing happened at Horton Hospital in my constituency—the maternity unit was closed for a few hours. This is definitely something the NHS needs to focus on to ensure that those services are available at all times—no doubt about that.
The hon. Lady asks about my own comments. I hold to my own comments that the European Commission needs to take very seriously the Prime Minister’s offer on the table of the future trading arrangement. The hon. Lady will know that the Government’s position is to ensure that we meet the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, which means taking back control of our money, our borders and our laws. It means leaving the customs union and the single market, and leaving the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. What the Chequers proposal also does is meet the red lines of the European Commission. That is why I argue that it needs to take it very seriously. What the Government are seeking is a good deal for the United Kingdom and the European Union that will enable us, our citizens, European citizens and businesses to continue to work together closely, as we have done in the past.
The hon. Lady asks about the business of the House. We have had some very important business this week. We have made important progress in reforming civil liability law and in dealing with the horrendous issue of upskirting. We have completed the Commons stages of the Tenant Fees Bill, which will make renting easier, ban tenant fees and cap security deposits, all of which are incredibly important. I am sure that she will agree that it is important the House has the opportunity next week to discuss the withdrawal agreement White Paper in advance of the time pressures that are likely on this House when we actually come to consider the withdrawal agreement Bill. It is also vital that the House has the chance to consider the appalling revelations yesterday about the facts behind what happened during the Amesbury and Salisbury incidents. Those are very important debates, so I do not agree with her that the Government are not timetabling important business. She will, of course, be aware that Standing Orders provide for 20 Opposition days in each Session. The Government will, of course, abide by that and bring forward extra days in due course.
The hon. Lady asks about the Budget date. I can tell her that the date will be announced by the Treasury in the usual manner, as it always is.
The hon. Lady asks about Members’ space in Portcullis House and objects to the term “customer services”. Personally, I rather like it, because I think it is important that Members have a place where they can go to ask questions and get problems solved. I will take away her specific point about a quiet space for Members to be able to work in. I think that that is extremely important.
I welcome the hon. Lady back to this House and I look forward to plenty of Thursdays of robust debate.
A country that does not control its own armed forces cannot be sovereign. Before the EU referendum, we were assured that plans for an EU army were fantasy and scaremongering, so Members can only imagine my dismay this week when I saw photographs of British troops disembarking for an exercise in Bosnia-Herzegovina wearing EU insignia on their uniforms. May we have an urgent statement on UK participation in the EU army that does not exist?
My hon. Friend raises a matter that is clearly of grave concern to him. What I can say is that the UK’s armed forces are playing a very active role right around the world and will continue to do so. The Government’s position is to continue to work and liaise closely with the European Union once we have left the European Union in March 2019.
It is good to be back for the annual Daily Mail fortnight. I hope that everybody has had a good break. Unfortunately, I do not think that we can all sport as impressive a suntan as yours, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. We did learn a few things during the recess. One is that it does look like we are possibly heading for this no deal Brexit, with all the attendant food shortages and medicine stockpiling. We have learned that this Government are increasingly relaxed about that prospect.
We have also learned that the Prime Minister definitely cannot dance, although we know nothing about twinkle toes Leadsom. What we have found is that the EU negotiators are waltzing right round the UK as the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) does a quickstep while the Government can barely muster a cha-cha-cha.
The issue of private Members’ Bills is not going to go away for the Leader of the House. There are only two sitting Fridays left in this Session of Parliament, and there is a list of private Members’ Bills still awaiting money resolutions, prime among them the critical Bill on reuniting refugee families tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil). Will we see some extra sitting Fridays, and will there be progress on those money resolutions?
May we have a debate about meetings with Ministers? I spent a bit of my recess looking at all the many photographs of Scottish Conservative Members of Parliament with Ministers and Secretaries of State. They are an impressive bunch of photographs—I will concede that—but I have now written to all those Ministers and Secretaries of State, insisting on meetings to discuss critical issues in my constituency, although I have not yet had the courtesy of one such meeting. Are we beginning to see the politicisation of meetings with Ministers to give party political advantage? If that is the case, what are the issues for the ministerial code?
Lastly, may we have a debate on Brexit and Scotland? Another prime thing we learned this summer is that, if Brexit goes ahead, the majority of people in Scotland now want independence for our nation as we refuse to go down with the stricken UK Brexit liner. I bet the Leader of the House wishes she had listened to the Scottish Government when it comes to Brexit now.
I have to take issue with the hon. Gentleman: I think the Prime Minister can dance. I draw his attention to the all-party parliamentary group on Scottish country dancing. He might like to write to the Prime Minister to invite her along, with him, to that group. He claims to be able to sing. I can see some new bonding going on there; it would fantastic.
The hon. Gentleman talks about UK Ministers not being available to him. I am very happy to meet him any time he likes. I will definitely have my photograph taken with him; I would be delighted, any time. In particular, if we were dancing together—Scottish country dancing or whatever—that would work for me.
Anyway, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is right that UK Ministers refuse to meet him. If he has evidence of that, I will certainly look into it, but my absolute clear understanding is that Ministers will meet colleagues right across the House, and do so frequently. It may simply be that my hon. Friends here are more photogenic; he needs to consider that in his thinking.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman raises the issue of additional days for private Members’ Bills. The House approved, early in this Session, 13 sitting Fridays for the Session. As I said during the debate on 17 July 2017, given that we have announced that this will be an extended Session, we will be bringing forward additional sitting Fridays in due course. However, we have seen some excellent progress right across the House. I am pleased that we will be discussing a money resolution for the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, tabled by the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson). That is a very important private Member’s Bill, so I do think we are making progress. There is always more to do, but I hope that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will continue to be resolute in his determination to see his hon. Friends’ Bills taken forward also.
I will be briefer than the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) in quickly raising two issues.
The first is the proposal—inappropriate in many people’s eyes—to collocate a learning centre with the holocaust memorial proposed for Victoria Tower gardens.
Can the Government publish a paper showing their comparison of the merits there with those of the Imperial War Museum and how the present proposal matches the specification in the national Holocaust Memorial Foundation specification of September 2015?
I shall speak briefly to a separate issue, but one that matters to one person and many watching. Kweku Adoboli is 38. He was last in Ghana aged 4, when his father, as a senior United Nations official, was expelled from some other place. Kweku, until he came here aged 11—he has been here continuously since then—lived in Israel, Syria and Iraq.
How is it public purpose that someone that age when he was last in Ghana should be expelled there as a consequence of the offence for which he was convicted?
On my hon. Friend’s last point, if he would like to write to me with the details, I could take it up with the Home Office or the Foreign Office, as appropriate. With regards to his first point, I think we are all very excited about the holocaust memorial. I understand that a consultation is going on at the moment in Church House, and he should make his views known there. Again, if he would like to write to me on that point, I can take it up.
I thank the Leader of the House for advance notice that the Backbench Business Committee will be allocating debate time on 9 October—that is very welcome.
I know that the Leader of the House likes advance notice of time-sensitive debate applications, and we have two applications for 18 October. As that is Anti-Slavery Day, one application is on ending exploitation, including modern slavery, in supermarket supply chains. It is also World Menopause Day, which is a matter I am sure many Members would want to discuss.
Next Thursday, there is a Westminster Hall debate on services for deaf children, under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. The debate, which is to be signed in British Sign Language, is sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick). It is interesting that children and adults who use British Sign Language do not yet have the facility of having a GCSE examination in their own main form of communication. The whole House should take that on board and try to get the Department for Education to introduce a GCSE in BSL for deaf people.
Lastly, Mr Speaker, you will be delighted to know that the Great Exhibition of the North is coming to an end this Thursday. I thank the Leader of the House for visiting my constituency during the exhibition, along with her Cabinet colleagues. It was a pleasure to meet her and to welcome her to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in the Gateshead constituency.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I thank him very much for hosting me there.
The examples the hon. Gentleman has just given of some of the work of the Backbench Business Committee highlight how valuable and varied the debates are that come from it. It is an absolutely vital and top priority for all Members across the House to stamp slavery out. I think that a debate on World Menopause Day would also be of great interest to a lot of Members.
On the debate the hon. Gentleman has scheduled for deaf children, I am sure many Members will have examples in their own constituencies and will want to speak more about what we can do to facilitate ease of communication for deaf children.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the future funding of football in the United Kingdom? While the premier league generates vast sums—some might say to an obscene level—precious little of that money finds its way to the lower leagues and to non-league clubs. If we are serious about winning the World cup in Qatar, we need to change that situation.
My hon. Friend always raises an important point, and winning the World cup in Qatar is definitely a priority for the United Kingdom. He raises an important point about funding for grassroots sport, and the Premier League outlined in 2016 that it would invest at least £1 billion of its domestic TV revenues in grassroots facilities, including youth coaching and improving disabled access and so on. It is important that we do all we can to promote football, so that we get that pipeline of talented young footballers and do even better in the next World cup.
Will the Leader of the House look at early-day motion 1036?
[That this House notes that Remembrance Sunday 2018 falls on 11 November (Armistice Day), exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent; recognises that there is a prima facie case for a one-off retail closure across the UK on that day to enhance the peace and decorum inherent in Remembrance Sunday and to enable more working people and their families to partake in the events of Remembrance Sunday 2018; expects that retail would also benefit as more goods would be bought before the one day closure and on reopening; believes that legislation to enact such a one-off retail closure would provide a chance for all hon. Members and those of the other place to rise above their daily political divides and come together in genuine unity; and requests that the Government brings forward a simple piece of legislation to provide for a one-off retail closure across the UK for Remembrance Sunday 2018.]
This year, 11 November is a very important date—it will be 100 years since the ending of the first world war. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers would like to see that day—Sunday 11 November—treated this year the way we treat Christmas day. Will the Leader of the House look at bringing forward some very urgent legislation to put that through for this very special day this year?
I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that it will be a very special day to commemorate the enormous sacrifice of so many, and I would be pleased to take the issue away and look into what can be done.
The Boundary Commission has reported to the Government on parliamentary constituencies, but that has not been reported to this House. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made next week about the publication of the proposed new parliamentary boundaries and when we will vote on them? Is the delay because the Government think they will not have a majority for the new proposal? I for one will not be voting for it.
My hon. Friend is right. The boundary commissions submitted their final reports to Ministers on 5 September. We are required to lay the reports before Parliament once received, and we will do so promptly. As each report will be an Act paper, they can be laid before Parliament only when both Houses are sitting. Once the reports have been laid before Parliament we will make them publicly available, which we expect will be on Monday 10 September.
I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you will have seen the 2010 film “The King’s Speech”, portraying George VI. It contained 11 uses of the F-word and was granted a classification of 12A. I recently saw the highly rated documentary “A Northern Soul” by Hull film-maker Sean McAllister. Its main character uses the F-word 14 times and it is heard 19 times in total in the film. None of it was aggressive or gratuitous, and the film simply portrays the life of a working-class Hull man and his work helping local children, but it has been given a 15 certificate nationally. May we therefore have a debate about whether there is a class bias in the way censors seek to protect younger teenagers from the reality and language that many experience in their lives every day?
The hon. Lady raises a genuinely interesting point, and I urge her to seek an Adjournment debate so she can discuss it with Ministers and then take it forward.
Staffordshire County Council has generally done an excellent job over the last few years both in meeting budgetary requirements and in protecting services, but, like many such authorities, it is facing severe challenges for 2019-20. May we have a debate on the importance both of increasing local revenue through not requiring referendums on increases in council tax above 2% or 3%, and of providing extra money from the better care fund for the provision of better care services for adults and children? There is also, of course, our ongoing request to have the business rate pilot scheme for Staffordshire.
My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his area. He will be aware that we have backed councils in England with £200 billion to deliver local services between 2015 and 2020. That is an increase, and there has also been a significant increase in the money available for adult social care this year. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend raises an important point, and I know that many colleagues are concerned about local government funding. I encourage him to seek a Back-Bench business debate so that he and other colleagues can raise this issue.
I stand in front of Jo Cox’s memorial. Is the Leader of the House picking up a growing concern among some Members about their personal security? We do not speak much about that in the House, but it would be valuable if she would meet a group of us to talk about it.
May I also get in a second quick question? May we have an early debate on the impact of the private finance initiative on health provision up and down the country? My town and others are likely to lose accident and emergency departments because of the PFI burden we still have to carry.
On the hon. Gentleman’s first point, of course I would be delighted to meet with colleagues who are concerned. The House authorities have put in place very good measures, and the Chairman of Ways and Means is keen to speak to any Member who is concerned for their own safety. I encourage all colleagues to take up the offer of personal security and also additional security measures for their staff both in the constituency and here in Parliament. It is a very serious issue.
On the second point, we have had a number of debates over the years on PFI and the impact on public services, and a further debate would be valuable, so I will take that suggestion away and look at it.
May we have a debate on the new data showing that service sector activity reached a three-month high in May?
We should all celebrate the excellent economic news that we have had recently, in particular the rise in employment and reduction in unemployment, and the growth in our economy and certainly in our services sector. My hon. Friend will be aware that there will be many opportunities to discuss our economy during the Budget debate later this year, but he might like to seek an Adjournment or Westminster Hall debate to discuss service sector productivity.
On Tuesday, in evidence to our Exiting the European Union Committee, the deputy permanent secretary confirmed that there were still 800-plus pieces of legislation to come through Parliament by February. That equates to a ballpark figure of about 50 a week, and more statutory instruments in four months than in each of the past two years. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on how the Government plan to schedule those statutory instruments, which we are told will be necessary prior to our leaving the European Union regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, and whether that will require any extended hours of the House or the cancellation of other business, if there are no plans to change the recesses?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point, and I would like to spend a moment explaining exactly where we are on this. We expect there to be between 800 and 1,000 Brexit statutory instruments, but the figure will probably be at the lower end of that estimate—somewhere in the region of just over 800. About half of those will be required either for no deal or for all eventualities. The other half are subject to negotiation. That number is perfectly manageable and in line with other parliamentary Sessions. It is not an extraordinary number of SIs at all, and we are confident that it can be managed within the normal parliamentary timings and the normal management of the business of the House, so I do not think that hon. Members should be concerned that the amount of secondary legislation will require any changes to recesses or to the normal sitting hours. The hon. Lady will also be aware that the business managers will make every effort to manage the business such that the flow is perfectly regular and normal, so that we do not end up with big peaks.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for indicating that 9 October will be a Back-Bench business day, and I am delighted that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee is here, because that will be Baby Loss Awareness Week, and I know that an application will be made to the Committee immediately to try to ensure that we can debate that important matter at that time.
Secondly, on High Speed 2, it is regrettable that only 31% of need to sell applicants in Eddisbury are successful. When people are facing their homes and livelihoods being blighted as a result of HS2, it is important that this matter should be debated in the Chamber. I ask the Leader of the House for time for a debate on the need to sell scheme and its application to those affected by HS2.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has taken this opportunity to lobby the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee. I am sure you would agree that that is entirely appropriate, Mr Speaker. She has also raised a really important point about HS2. She will be aware that there have also been concerns in my constituency about how compensation has been assessed for people under the need to sell scheme. I encourage her to make contact with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan), who is involved in the compensation and mitigation forum, which meets regularly to look at issues relating to compensation. Equally, she might wish to seek an Adjournment debate in order to raise her particular issues.
On 20 June, Bishop James Jones published his report on Gosport hospital, which revealed the really shocking fact that more than 450 people had lost their lives through inappropriate prescribing of opioids and highlighted profound concerns about how public bodies had closed ranks to prevent people from getting to the truth about what had happened to their loved ones. We owe it to the relatives, who are now going through real trauma as a result of the findings of that report, to have a debate in Government time on the implications of the report and on what needs to change if we are to learn the lessons from it. Will the Leader of the House look into that, please?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a worrying issue. We were all shocked by the level of unexplained deaths and the overuse of opiates, and it would certainly be right to seek a further debate to discuss the report directly with Ministers. He will recall that there was a statement at the time, but I encourage him to seek a further a debate for the sake of those who are still suffering the consequences of what has happened.
Many reports suggest that residential leaseholders face bills of thousands of pounds to replace the Grenfell-style cladding on their properties because the property owners will not pay for it. That is causing much concern for my local residents, particular those in Premier House in Edgware. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the progress he has made with building owners and developers to find a solution that will protect leaseholders from such additional costs? If no solution has been found, I would like to know what other routes are being explored to protect leaseholders from incurring costs associated with what is a purely a safety measure.
My hon. Friend is right that buildings with unsafe cladding systems must be made safe without delay. The Government are encouraged that the Peabody Trust, Mace Group and Taylor Wimpey have joined Barratt Homes and Legal & General in doing the right thing by covering the cost of removing and replacing unsafe cladding. We expect all building owners and developers to follow their lead and to protect leaseholders from the costs. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is working with the relevant local authorities to ensure that our expectations are clear to all the building owners and developers concerned.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, I have talked for a long time about the problems facing this country in relation to the Russian Federation, but I urge the Leader of the House to think again about the debate next Wednesday. One of the things that makes this country different from Russia is that we do not put people on trial in Parliament. We have a sub judice rule. It would be wholly inappropriate if prosecuting authorities were to conclude at the end of next week that this House had decided that certain individuals were guilty. I strongly urge her to withdraw that debate next Wednesday. Let us have an Opposition day debate or a debate on anything else—acquired brain injury or my private Member’s Bill spring to mind. We could debate anything, but we should not break that fundamental rule that we do not put people on trial in this Chamber.
I can only reassure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no risk of that happening during a general debate next week about the Salisbury incident.
The level of gun and knife crime, particularly in London, dramatically increased before and during the summer recess. At the same time, a former adviser to the Mayor of London has admitted that the Mayor does not have a clue what to do about it. May we have a debate in Government time on how to combat this terrible menace to society, particularly when most of it is gang or drug related?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this worrying issue. In London, crime has risen 4%, with violent crime up 5% and robberies up 22%, and knife crime has surged by 48% to the highest level in seven years. The Mayor of London has a budget of £16.5 billion and has the power to move it around. The Government’s serious violence strategy is focused on tackling this scourge, and the Mayor should be taking part in, feeding into and learning from the response to the increase in serious violence.
May we have a debate on mental health services in our universities? There were recent reports of a series of suicides at the University of Bristol, and I am also dealing with a family in my constituency whose son killed himself while a student at Leeds Beckett University. It seems difficult for the family to get the right of access to a body to which they can complain about the lack of support that they believe that their son received. Will the Leader of the House arrange time for a debate on that important matter?
I share the hon. Lady’s grave concern about this issue. The prevalence of suicides and self-harming in our schools and universities is truly worrying. She may be aware that the Government set a new aim to address self-harm as an issue in its own right in the national suicide prevention strategy last year, and that we have invested almost £250 million to implement liaison mental health teams in every A&E by 2020, which will be well placed to deal with people who attend hospital with mental health issues, particularly self-harming. However, I encourage the hon. Lady to seek a debate to raise her specific constituency issue.
The need to protect freedom of speech and expression is hugely important, as is the need to protect legitimate businesspeople going about their business. May we have a debate on whether we have the balance right, with protest groups being able to overstep the mark without having to pay towards the cost of any policing, and therefore a lack of policing? There is an impact on businesses when the police do not step in.
My hon. Friend raises a valid point about who pays for the right of individuals and groups to exercise their free speech. There is a valid discussion to be had, and I encourage him to seek a debate so that all hon. Members can contribute.
A couple of weeks ago I had the huge honour of going along to the “I Am What I Am” show at the Aberdeen performing arts centre in my constituency. The show is run by Music 4 U, a completely inclusive group. Many of the performers on stage are disabled young people, and the performance was unbelievable—the Leader of the House would have loved it. I congratulate the people who work so hard to pull off that stage show on all they do, and I highlight the fact that such organisations across the country are a place where inclusion really happens, and they are a real picture of what society should look like.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising that wonderful-sounding organisation. “I Am What I Am” sounds fantastic, and I am glad she enjoyed the performance. I encourage that organisation and others to do more to demonstrate that we have an inclusive society in which everybody’s voice is heard and everybody’s particular talents are enjoyed and appreciated.
Last Friday I was honoured to attend an event in Dunblane to commemorate the heroism of Lieutenant James Huffam, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the first world war. The pride of James Huffam’s son and family was very moving. What special debates are planned in the House over the next few weeks, leading up to the 100th anniversary of the armistice of 1918, to allow us to reflect on the sacrifice and valour of those who served our country in the first world war?
We will never forget the service and sacrifice of those who served during the first world war. I encourage everyone, whatever their connection to it, to apply to participate in the people’s procession along Whitehall and to join in with the bell-ringing programme to help us mark this historic occasion. That will be a fitting conclusion to the four-year commemorations of the centenary of the first world war and will ensure that such stories are not lost.
On my hon. Friend’s question about what we will be doing in this House, I will take that away and give it further thought.
Bobi Wine is a charismatic, brave and popular Ugandan musician, and he is an MP under his real name of Robert Kyagulanyi. On 13 April, along with other Ugandan MPs, he was arrested, detained in military custody, beaten and tortured. That was not the first time in President Museveni’s Uganda—MP Betty Nambooze was beaten by security forces in the Ugandan Parliament last year. Will the Leader of the House express solidarity with fellow MPs in Commonwealth countries who are trying to protect democracy? How can the House ask the Government to stand up to President Museveni’s behaviour through action at the United Nations and the Commonwealth, and by using Magnitsky legislation if necessary?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Last year I took part in a group of female Commonwealth MPs who shared their experience of violence and threats, particularly against female MPs. He is right to raise the importance of freedom and free speech, and of being able to go about our work free from the threat of torture and punishment. I am not aware of his specific examples, but if he wants to write to me I can take them up with the Foreign Office on his behalf.
Will the Government make a statement on what can be done to strengthen planning law to allow local authorities more redress when conditions or legal agreements entered into by contractors, such as routing agreements, are routinely breached?
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is doing everything it can to ensure that developers abide by planning laws and, in particular, that we speed up the planning system so that we can get more homes built for those who desperately need them. He raises an important specific point and I encourage him to raise it directly with Ministers at the next MCHLG questions.
The Leader of the House may be aware that before the summer recess The Telegraph exposed Government data breaches after the use of an online system called Trello, about which concerns had already been raised by its own security. The leak meant that members of the public could access details of how to gain passes to Government buildings. Will she therefore arrange for a Cabinet Office Minister to make a statement on the Floor of the House in order to give the public reassurance that the Government do take cyber-security seriously and will stop using online portals for sharing work that can lead to these data breaches?
We all need to be extremely careful about the use of data, and there is no doubt that those breaches are completely unacceptable. The hon. Gentleman might be aware that we have Cabinet Office questions next week, and I encourage him to raise this issue directly then.
It is very welcome that the Government are investing £1 billion in the midland main line, including an extra track on the most congested part of the line, so that we can have more services, and a huge new car park at Market Harborough. Along with other Members who represent constituencies along the line, I am campaigning for further improvements, such as the electrification of the line between Kettering and Market Harborough, and the provision of shelters at Market Harborough. Would it be possible for us to have a debate in Government time on the future of the midland main line?
My hon. Friend is highlighting some of the improvements the Government are determined to make to the railways. We are investing more than has been put in at any time since Victorian times in maintenance, modernisation and renewal to try to deliver more journeys and fewer disruptions, with modern ticketing and so on. He is raising a specific point about the midland main line, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can raise it directly with Ministers.
It would appear that suicides as a result of gambling addiction are not recorded as such by coroners’ officers. Will the Leader of the House consult ministerial colleagues and ask them to work with the Office for National Statistics to establish an inquiry as to how we can best gather this data so that we can measure the true impact of gambling addiction?
As so often, the hon. Lady raises a serious and important point. It is not a matter for me, but if she would like to write to me, I will be able to take it up with the relevant Ministers on her behalf.
Despite savage budget cuts by the Scottish Government, Scottish Borders Council is prioritising mental health services by appointing counsellors in all the high schools in its area. Will the Government therefore find time to have a debate on mental health and whether they can adopt the strategy used by that council to ensure that all high schools across all the UK can benefit from such a service?
My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his constituency and I join him in praising Scottish Borders Council. I hope the Scottish Government will follow its initiative. He will be aware that the Prime Minister has made tackling the appalling injustice of mental illness a priority for the UK Government. Health is a matter for the Scottish Government, but the £2 billion in extra funding they received from the UK Government this year could be used to help roll out this policy right across Scotland.
Another business questions and another week in which we have had no sight of and heard no mention of the immigration Bill, and been given no possible clue, hint or even a raised eyebrow about its location. This House has to debate and pass that Bill before next March. When is it going to come to the House?
We have already introduced and passed some of the Brexit legislation: 23 Government Bills have received Royal Assent and we are bringing forward legislation as we need to do so. The hon. Lady may be aware that there will be a Migration Advisory Committee report during the fourth quarter. The immigration Bill will come forward after that and in good time.
Three days after the summer recess, the Home Office’s asylum accommodation provider, Serco, announced plans to evict 330 asylum seekers in Glasgow from its property as they were deemed to be “failed”. The facts are that they are not “failed”; the majority either have made a fresh claim or have an appeal pending. Will the Home Office make a statement, or may we have a debate, so that we can hold the Home Office to account for passing wrong information to Serco and ensure that asylum seekers are treated with respect across the United Kingdom?
I am sorry to hear about the particular case the hon. Gentleman raises. He will be aware that asylum seekers in the United Kingdom are cared for; they are housed and protected by the United Kingdom Government. If the hon. Gentleman would like to write to me about his specific case, I can take it up with Ministers on his behalf.
Recent research from Swansea University shows that more and more students are paying other people to do their assignments. The Governments of Ireland and Australia have committed to following the lead of New Zealand and the USA by banning the advertising and provision of so-called essay mills. May we have a debate in the House on banning this practice in the UK in order to safeguard the integrity of our outstanding higher education sector?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point. We have Education questions next week, when she may well wish to raise the issue directly. I absolutely agree with her that we have to ensure that it is only those who have done the work who then take the exam and get the qualification at the end of it.
Yesterday, we had an amazing debate in Westminster Hall about serious organised crime and the exploitation of children. Will the Leader of the House bring the Home Secretary to the House regularly to discuss what we are going to do about the fact that thousands upon thousands of children in the United Kingdom are exploited by criminal gangs through county lines? It is a national disgrace and a scandal of huge proportions, and we must speak up much more loudly about it in the House and get the Home Secretary to come here to discuss what he is going to do about it.
All Members would agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is a really concerning matter. He will be aware that the Government launched our serious violence strategy in April this year, part of which is addressing the really worrying issue of county lines and the misuse of drugs. We have key commitments under that strategy to provide a new national county lines co-ordination centre, and we are continuing to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Police Chiefs Council lead on the prosecution of county lines offences, encouraging the use of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 wherever possible. A lot of work is being done and a lot of cash—Government money—is going into community work to get young people off that conveyor belt, which leads in effect to such appalling abuse of them, and which is also a road to crime, because it leads to awful problems for young people during their lives. I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman.
In July 2017, the Government announced that they were going to lift tolls on the Severn bridge this Christmas, which caused me concern about traffic gridlock in north Bristol. On 12 March this year, I tabled a written question, only to be told that no new modelling had been done on the additional number of cars. In July, I found that the modelling was being done, and a freedom of information request over the summer showed that we can expect 6 million extra vehicle journeys every year. Will the Leader of the House tell me whether it is Government policy to take decisions before the evidence is available? If so, may we have a debate about evidence-based policy?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the purpose of abolishing the tolls is to boost the south Wales economy by more than £100 million a year. He might find that some of his hon. Friends would not agree that it was done deliberately to try to cause traffic jams in his constituency. The idea is to save the average motorist more than £1,400 per year, which is good news for the motoring public. Some 25 million vehicles cross the bridges every year. The scrapping of the tolls is going to be good news in south Wales and for motorists.
It has been revealed that a third of children in Grimsby did not reach the expected levels in their SATs. May we please have a debate in Government time on the impact and effectiveness of the new SATs on teaching and learning in primary schools?
I am very sorry to hear the statistics in the hon. Lady’s constituency. However, I am sure she will recognise that since 2010 we have almost 2 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools, and 86% of schools in England are now rated good or outstanding—up from 68% in 2010. The hon. Lady expresses particular concerns about the new SATs; I encourage her to raise that matter directly with Ministers at oral questions next week.
During exchanges on the statement on public sector pay on 24 July, I was given assurances by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that the pay increase for Welsh teachers will be fully funded as it is a reserved function until next year. To date, that promise has not been fulfilled, but it has been for English teachers, so can we have an oral statement from the Treasury on why the British Government are seemingly short-changing Welsh teachers?
The hon. Gentleman might wish to raise that matter at Treasury questions next week, but what I can say to him is that this pay rise for teachers is much needed, will be welcomed and will do more to improve education right across England and Wales.
Many packaged bank accounts now come with travel insurance, but many people only discover what they are not covered for when they need to claim. This has caused huge distress and expense for a family from my constituency this summer. Can we have a debate about what more banks should do to be upfront with people and clear from the outset about what they are covered for?
That is a really good point. We all have experiences of being sold extras that then somehow do not happen when we try to claim on them, so the hon. Lady raises a very important point. Again, I encourage her to raise that with Treasury Ministers next week.
My constituent Andy Woodburn’s mother-in-law Nadia is Ukrainian, and her last visit to the UK coincided with Russian disruption in Ukraine. As Home Office advice was not to travel at that time, Nadia stayed longer than her visa and applied for leave to remain, but she returned home as soon as she possibly could. She then applied for a family visa but was turned down because she did not properly highlight the withdrawn application. I have asked for a review of the decision, but immigration officials are sticking to their guns. Will the Leader of the House make a statement, outlining what options are available to me as a parliamentarian to help Nadia get a visa to visit her young grandchildren?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on raising this constituency case—it is something that he often does in this place. If he wants me to take up the matter with Ministers on his behalf, perhaps he can write to me with the details.
I note how many Members across the House are currently face down with their smartphone or tablet. I realise that they are all working very hard and multi-tasking, but there is now growing evidence about the link between overuse of technology such as smartphones and poor mental health, particularly among young people. Can we have a debate in Government time about what more can be done to get the big tech companies to take this issue seriously?
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that we all spend far too much time on technology, and that is particularly true of young people. It is interesting that a number of schools are now saying to their students that they cannot have their devices during the course of the day. That is a contentious subject, but I certainly support such a move. He is right that it is a really key issue. In a sense, we are undertaking a massive experiment, because there is no regulation around this matter. I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business debate so that all hon. Members can share their views and perhaps we can then debate them with Ministers.
Today’s Resolution Foundation report calling for universal credit roll-out to be stopped is the seventh such call in the past six months. I have heard from constituents about applications that have never been received and documents that have been lost, which is delaying by several weeks—on top of the designed five weeks—when they receive their first payment. Clearly, the system is not fit for purpose, so can we have a debate in Government time on a new social security policy and the need for a new social contract with the British people?
Universal credit is designed to help. It is a better, simpler and more flexible system that helps more people into work. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady might not like it, but that is the truth of it. Under the old system, if a person worked a minute over 16 hours, they lost their whole jobseekers’ allowance. Universal credit requires a person to make only one application, and it makes sure that work always pays.
Research published this month shows that universal credit means £8 billion a year extra for the economy, an extra 200,000 people in work and 130 million more working hours every year for those already in a job. She raises an important point, which is about the roll-out of universal credit. She will be aware that the Government have listened very carefully to the evidence in this place and from users. We have raised advances to 100% of the first month’s payment so she is not right to say that people are having to wait five weeks; that is simply not the case. We have made it quicker and easier for people to get their first payments so that everyone who needs it can get their money on the very same day. We have introduced an overlap for those already receiving housing benefit, to ensure that they have a smooth transition on to the new system. We continue to look very carefully at the roll-out to improve it, but to simply say that we should halt it is to deny many people this opportunity. Mr Speaker would not allow me the time, but I could give the hon. Lady countless examples of people who have really benefited from universal credit, getting into work for the first time.
My private Member’s Bill, the Terminal Illness (Provision of Palliative Care and Support for Carers) Bill, is due to have its Second Reading on Friday 23 November. There are 34 Bills listed for debate that Friday; my Bill is No. 23. That date is the last Friday that has been allocated as a sitting Friday. As such, my Bill is unlikely to get any time for its Second Reading. Will the Leader of the House tell me when the Government will announce more sitting Fridays for the remainder of this parliamentary Session?
I wish the hon. Gentleman great success with his PMB. The House approved 13 sitting Fridays for this Session at the beginning of the Session. I made it clear during the debate on 17 July 2017 that, given that we had announced this would be an extended Session, we would expect to provide additional sitting Fridays in due course, taking into account the passage of business, so I do expect to make that announcement soon.
On whole swathes of the Isle of Arran in my constituency, there is no mobile phone coverage at all. As well as being inconvenient, this could—and has almost in the past—cost lives. Given that the UK Government promised to roll out full mobile phone coverage for Arran by 2015, will the Leader of the House make a statement to the House on when this coverage will finally be completed for the island of Arran?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point. In the 21st century, it is key that we get proper coverage rolled out right across the United Kingdom. We are doing very well against our own targets, and there is more to do. The Government have announced a significant investment in digital infrastructure. The Scottish Government also have a role to play. I encourage the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate to raise her question directly with Ministers.
Many constituents have contacted me, worried that the Government are going to drop their proposal for a pensions dashboard to access all information about pensions in one place. The Government now say that it is going ahead, but they are handing it over to the private sector with no guarantee of how the scheme is going to be complied with. Can we have a debate about the whole issue of how people can access information about their pensions?
I think that we have all received quite a number of requests for information about the pensions dashboard, and the hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise the issue. The Government remain committed to doing everything we can to improve transparency and financial advice to those seeking advice on their pension. I encourage the hon. Gentleman either to raise this matter at an Adjournment debate or to write to me so that I can take it up directly with Ministers on his behalf.
Nationally, nine in 10 crimes are sadly going unpunished, including murders in Southwark, where our police are really struggling, having lost 400 officers and police community support officers since 2010. Will the Government provide time to debate why the Home Office is ignoring the recommendation of its own advisers to provide an extra £100 million to the Metropolitan Police Service, which is equivalent to more than 4,000 additional officers desperately needed by communities across our capital?
As I said earlier, the Mayor of London is responsible for policing and priorities, and he has a £16.5 billion budget. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Mayor should be looking very seriously at his budget allocation to policing. The Government have enabled a further £460 million of funding for local policing through the council tax precept. That is how the Government are ensuring that police and crime commissioners can meet local needs.
Today Leah Sharibu, the only girl out of the 119 kidnapped by Boko Haram in February this year who is still being held by the terrorist group, reached 200 days in captivity—a punishment for refusing to give up her Christian faith. This week, at least 23 people were killed or injured in a drive-by shooting by Fulani militia in Plateau State. Violence against religion or belief groups is escalating in Nigeria, with over 1,000 casualties since the beginning of this year, so will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or contact a Foreign Office Minister on this most important issue?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue about the appalling abuses of religious freedom. The Government believe that all should be allowed to practise their religious faith free from threat of harm or imprisonment. He has raised some very important points. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise this directly with Ministers.
May we have a statement on the introduction of mandatory calorie counting on menus? Health professionals say that this measure will help to address childhood obesity across the UK.
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point. There is obviously a discussion to be had about the burden that that might place on smaller businesses, but, at the same time, we have to do everything possible to tackle the problem of obesity in this country. I am personally very sympathetic to him. I encourage him to seek a Back-Bench debate on the subject so that all hon. Members can share their views.
I call Paula Sherriff.
Thank you, Mr Speaker —you are very kind. I hope that everybody has taken the opportunity to visit the “Voice & Vote” exhibition in Westminster Hall. Have the Leader of the House, and perhaps you, Mr Speaker, considered whether there is any possibility that this exhibition could be moved around the country? I appreciate that it is quite large, but it would be a shame if people in, say, Dewsbury who would be unable to visit London for financial reasons could not see it. It would be great if it could be taken around our great country.
It is a splendid exhibition—absolutely first-class. I am sure that the Leader of the House would concur with that.
I think, Mr Speaker, that you were trying to earn the hon. Lady’s suggestion that you are extremely kind. I absolutely agree with her that that exhibition is excellent. I encourage all Members to have a look if they have not already done so, and of course to encourage their constituents who can come here to come and see it for themselves. Her suggestion of moving it around the country is a good one. She is absolutely right; it is extremely large, and definitely not for most village halls. However, I can certainly take this away and look at it.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that we are about to hear a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but is it right that half an hour ago the BBC Northern Ireland website more or less gave us the whole statement? We might as well not be hearing it from the Secretary of State. The detail of everything that she is going to say has been on the BBC Northern Ireland website; we have all read it in the past half hour.
Well, if that is so—the hon. Lady will appreciate that I was not in a position to know about it as I have been in the Chair since 9.30 this morning—it is extremely unsatisfactory. I must say that I have always regarded the Secretary of State as a person of unimpeachable integrity, and of real courtesy and commitment to the House. This is therefore very, very disappointing. Sometimes—we will hear from the Secretary of State in a moment as she is signalling that she wishes to contribute—Ministers themselves do not make material available but other people, supposedly acting on their behalf, do so. However, Ministers are responsible for everything that happens in, or relating to, their Departments, so I am very perturbed to hear what the hon. Lady has said. Let us hear what the Secretary of State has to say.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I was going to refer to the matter, which has just been brought to my attention, too. It is an honest mistake—it was human error—but I do apologise to the House for this. It was not intended that anything would be made public until I had made my statement to the House, and I do apologise to all Members.
I thank the Secretary of State for that. Needless to say, it must not happen again, but I thank her for her good grace.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is on a completely different matter, and it goes to the point that I raised with the Leader of the House earlier.
As you know, the sub judice rule means that, in particular when charges have been presented, as they have been in this case, we do not discuss those matters in this House because we believe in the separation of powers. We are not Russia. We have an independent judiciary. Anything said in a debate in this House that could suggest that the people of Britain have made up their mind as to the guilt of an individual person would be wholly detrimental. It would probably mean that other authorities in other countries would say that there is no chance of a fair trial in this country and therefore would refuse to extradite. I am sure, Sir, that you would use your best endeavours to ensure that any discussion in the debate strays nowhere near that, but I still urge the Leader of the House, through you, preferably to withdraw that debate, and if not, to ensure that we do not engage in any shape or form in a trial by party political Parliament.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Obviously I heard both his business question to the Leader of the House and her reply. The scheduled business has been announced, and it is not for me to seek to change that business. That said, the hon. Gentleman has raised an extremely serious and pertinent point.
The hon. Gentleman will know that it is open to the occupant of the Chair, whether I as Speaker or a Deputy Speaker acting on my behalf, to waive the sub judice rule. The Chair has some discretion in the way in which it is implemented. I certainly anticipate that if the debate goes ahead, it will be necessary to repeat what I am about to say: Members should not refer to their belief, one way or the other, as to the guilt or innocence of particular individuals. That simply must not happen. I also anticipate that between now and the debate taking place, there will be discussions between parliamentary officials and representatives of the Ministry of Justice.
I hope colleagues will understand if I leave it there and do not think it wise or necessary to say anything more, but the hon. Gentleman has raised a matter of the utmost importance, and I think we all take it, and will take it in the coming days, as seriously as it must be taken. I thank the Leader of the House and colleagues for the exchanges that we have just had.