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House of Commons Hansard
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15 October 2018
Volume 647

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Tuesday, in the urgent question on clinical waste, the Minister of State explicitly denied that the scandal was a result of a lack of incinerator capacity. When I asked him whether there was enough incinerator capacity, he said:

“The answer to that is, yes there is.”—[Official Report, 9 October 2018; Vol. 647, c. 35.]

You will have seen subsequently, Mr Speaker, in your copy of the Health Service Journal, that according to the minutes of a meeting of NHS Improvement officials held in August, they

“acknowledged there appeared to be a national market capacity issue”.

It turns out that the Environment Agency had said something similar back in August. This suggests that in fact the Government were aware of this and do accept that there is a clinical waste incinerator shortage. Has the Minister given you notice that he will come to make a statement to clear up this apparent contradiction and correct the record?

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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. Of course I remember the exchanges to which he has referred. I have not, to date, been advised of any intention by anyone to come to the House to make a statement, but of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, every Member in this place, including every Minister, is responsible for what he or she says in the Chamber. In the event that anybody feels that there is a need for a correction, that Member must take the lead in bringing about that correction in the Official Report. I think that we had better leave it there for now, but meanwhile the hon. Gentleman has made his point forcefully.

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rose—

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And I have a feeling that it is about to be buttressed and reinforced by a Member with a notable constituency interest.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The evidence that we have seen is that there is a growing gap between what the Minister told the House and the reality that we are seeing on the ground, including rumours that Mitie has neither the workforce, the sites nor the lorries to deal with the majority of this waste. We now have shipping containers in place at Pontefract Hospital, with no clarity about what will be put in them. The workforce at the Healthcare Environmental Services site in Normanton are being told nothing at all about whether they will be TUPE-ed, whether they have to carry on with existing work, or what will happen to their jobs. I am sure you will agree that that is deeply unfair on the workforce. Given that the Minister promised to make things better, and it appears that they may be being made worse, what other advice can you give us on how to get the Minister to provide more clarity to the House about what is happening?

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I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. The Minister will have heard what has been said, or if the Minister has not yet heard what has been said, the information about these exchanges will be transmitted, I think, extremely quickly.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) is a very experienced Member of the House. I will not say she is a veteran, for that would be wrong, but she is a very experienced Member—we came into the House together—and she will know that there are ways to ensure that a matter can be addressed as a matter of urgency in the Chamber. That cannot now happen today, but I rather imagine that the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), and the right hon. Lady will be expecting an update tomorrow. In the expectation but also potentially in lieu of such an update, they know what mechanism is available to them.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to place on record that I omitted to declare an interest when I questioned my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the 5G West Midlands bid. I asked what the benefits were for my constituency, but I failed to declare that my husband is the CEO of the company. While he is working as a volunteer, he receives no remuneration, but it has been brought to my attention that I should have mentioned that connection. I wish to correct the record, with your permission.

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I very much appreciate what the hon. Lady has said. She has corrected the record extremely quickly, and I am confident that that will be accepted by the House in the spirit in which she has offered the correction. I thank her. I will leave it there for now, but I look forward to seeing colleagues erelong.

OFFENSIVE WEAPONS BILL

Bill to be considered tomorrow.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for you taking this point of order. I want to know why the House was not informed at the earliest opportunity that the Offensive Weapons Bill, a very important Bill, was not going to be moved. We have just found out that it has been rescheduled for tomorrow. I wonder why we and the business managers were not informed in a timely manner.

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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am interested in why the Leader of the House has not come to make a business statement about this matter, given that she announced this business on Thursday last week and that many outside organisations have expected to see important debates on airguns, gun control and, crucially, as covered by my amendments, assaults on and threatening behaviour towards retail staff in the exercise of their duties. I would like to know whether “tomorrow” means tomorrow in this case or some unspecified date to be announced in the future. Given that material has been printed and the House still has three and a quarter hours in which this debate could take place, can we have an explanation?

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First, it might be helpful if I explain that while the Government have put the Bill down for tomorrow, that does not mean it will be taken tomorrow. It is a matter for the Government when they bring the Bill back. It is the usual practice for Government Bills to be set down in the remaining Orders for the next sitting day, but then for the Leader of the House to announce in the business statement when they are actually expected to be taken. I am sure that Ministers on the Treasury Bench have heard the concerns raised by Members. The Leader of the House will be responding to business questions on Thursday in the usual way, which will provide an opportunity for Members to ask what the Government’s intention is, if that is not made clear in the Leader of the House’s opening statement.

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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is such an important Bill: it is about protecting people and, in the case of some of the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson), about protecting shop workers. Could the Leader of the House come to the House at her earliest convenience—when she is not buying pizzas for everyone—and inform us when this matter will be taken in the Chamber?

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As I have said, there will be an opportunity on Thursday to question the Leader of the House. I have not received any indication that she will be coming to the House earlier than that, but there will be such an opportunity on Thursday. As I have said, those on the Treasury Bench have heard the concerns of Members.

I wish to inform the House that nominations for the election of a Chair of the Committee on Standards closed at 5 pm today. As a single nomination was received, I can now announce that no ballot is necessary and that Kate Green is elected unopposed. I congratulate her on her assumption of that role.