The business for next week will be:
Monday 28 January—Second Reading of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, followed by a debate on a motion relating to proxy voting.
Tuesday 29 January—Debate on a motion relating to section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Wednesday 30 January—Remaining stages of the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords].
Thursday 31 January—Debate on a motion relating to settling the debt owed to victims of the Equitable Life scandal, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the sustainability of maintained nursery schools. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 1 February: The House will not be sitting.
Sunday will mark Holocaust Memorial Day—an opportunity to remember the 6 million Jews murdered in the holocaust, and the millions of Roma, Gypsies, disabled people, political prisoners, homosexuals and others murdered under Nazi persecution, just for being who they were. We also remember and mourn all those murdered in genocides around the world.
We should also pay tribute to the wonderful work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which enables 100,000 people every year to hear a survivor’s testimony. The trust has taken more than 38,000 people to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of its holocaust education programme.
Colleagues will recall that the independent complaints and grievance policy, which was established last summer, was to be reviewed after six months. I am pleased to inform the House that an independent reviewer has been identified by the Clerks, and we expect the six-month review to start next week, following final sign-off by the House of Commons Commission on Monday 28 January.
Finally, I wish everyone enjoying haggis, neeps and tatties and a wee dram of whisky tomorrow a very enjoyable Burns night, in celebration of the life and legacy of the great Scottish poet.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business for next week. I note that there is no Opposition day debate, but I am pleased that she mentioned proxy voting. Mr Speaker, I think you and the Leader of the Opposition have signed the certificate to ensure that proxy voting can take place as soon as possible, and I hope that leaders of the other parties will also sign those certificates as soon as possible.
Can the Leader of the House confirm that the House will rise on 14 February and return on the 24th? I ask that because the Foreign Affairs Committee has actually cancelled a visit to India during that time, and I understand that builders working on restoration and renewal have been told that they will not be able to carry out their planned programme of work. Could we also have the May recess dates?
Can the Leader of the House confirm that Parliament will not be prorogued? There are some noises off to suggest that that might happen. I know that the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has got a new job; we know that he has access to heavy machinery, but I hope that is not what the Prime Minister meant by chaos and threats to “social cohesion”.
In her statement on Monday, the Prime Minister did not say whether her deal would be brought back to Parliament, but the Prime Minister’s spokesperson made it clear that the vote that is due to be held on 29 January is not the second meaningful vote. Is it the Government’s intention to bring back a second meaningful vote to the House? I do not know when the Leader of the House intends to lay the business motion for the debate next Tuesday, but will she ensure that it will be a full day’s debate in protected time? Also, when will the votes be expected?
We need to pass an approval resolution and the EU withdrawal agreement Bill, which obviously has not yet been introduced, before 29 March. The Leader of the House might not be able to tell us today, but will she come back next week to say whether that will be scheduled before 29 March, which it needs to be?
Last week, I raised the issue of the size of statutory instruments. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) and other MPs co-signed a letter to the Chief Whip, because their constituencies will be affected by an SI tabled to replace the REACH regulation—I will set this out because it is important—on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. Right hon. and hon. Members have met industry representatives, who have serious concerns about the legislation and the effects that it might have on the chemical industry. Those industries are staying in the UK, so it is important for all Members to have a chance to debate that. Will the Leader of the House ensure that that statutory instrument is brought to the Floor of House for debate and proper scrutiny?
Many hon. Members have been to see the Prime Minister. The Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee said—yes, I am going to say it again—that the Prime Minister’s door was open but her mind was closed. However, did anyone check whether she was wearing headphones? Perhaps she was listening to the Everly Brothers, “Problems”, or Chumbawamba, “Tubthumping”. As it is Neil Diamond’s birthday today, perhaps she was listening to “Everybody’s talkin’ at me”, or all the greatest hits of MP4.
I was going to describe the situation as chaotic, but I suppose “confused” and “reckless” are better words. The Secretary of State for International Trade admitted that preparations for a no-deal Brexit, by falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, are impossible unless the Trade Bill passes through Parliament. I heard the very able Minister, the hon. Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery), say just now that the House of Lords has blocked the Bill: it has not. The Lords found that the Trade Bill gives wide powers to Ministers, does not include Parliament or the devolved Administrations, and has no process for making international trade agreements. When will the Government publish the White Paper to set out their policy and proposals for making such agreements?
That is chaos and confusion on the EU, but there is also some domestic confusion. The Prime Minister said that employment in the west midlands has gone up but, in fact, unemployment has gone up. The west midlands is the only region to show a fall in employment. It is important to get statistics and facts right in the House.
Will the Leader of the House clarify policy, because the Government have been saying different things? Parliament passed the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 with an amendment on public registers. The Act said that such registers would be introduced by 2020 if the overseas territories had not done so voluntarily, and yet a Minister has said that the Government will have
“a requirement for an operational public register by 2023”.
That is three years later than the House agreed and five years after Parliament voted to take action on the issue. Will she clarify that?
What are the Government doing about leveraged debts? The Bank of England has raised a red flag over that new breed of sub-prime loans. Ten years on from the financial crash, banks are doling out those risky loans to indebted companies. May we have an urgent statement from the Chancellor on leveraged debts before it is too late?
Our much admired and efficient justice system is in meltdown, causing the Attorney General to say that the Crown Prosecution Service cannot take any more cuts.
I join the Leader of the House in celebrating—if that is the correct word—or remembering Holocaust Memorial Day. We think of all the survivors and remember that the EU was born from that—people wanted peace. Let us remembers the resilience of the survivors, who have lived without hate throughout their lives.
I, too, of course will celebrate Burns night tomorrow. I thought that alcohol was banned on the premises, but still I am happy to have a dram of whisky. Last year, there was delicious haggis in the Terrace café. It is on the menu tomorrow, and I encourage all hon. Members to have a go. I hope that our talented chefs will also give us a vegan option.
A vegan haggis would be an interesting thing to try. Haggis is certainly a delicious meal, and I join the hon. Lady in encouraging all Members to give it a go.
The hon. Lady asked about the proxy voting certificate. I can tell her that it will be in the Prime Minister’s box this evening. I am grateful for the speed with which Clerks and Mr Speaker’s Office have been able to deal with the matter, and I look forward to our ensuring that proxy voting can take place next week.
I announced in October that
“subject to the progress of business, the House will rise…on Thursday 14 February and return on Monday 25 February.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2018; Vol. 647, c. 800.]
That remains the position, but, as the hon. Lady will know, it is for the House to agree recess dates. I will of course come back to the House with proposed May recess dates as soon as I am able to do so.
The hon. Lady asked whether there would be a second meaningful vote. She will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained the current situation and next steps in her written statement on Monday, but I can tell her that this morning we tabled a further statement under section 13(11)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and have consequently tabled a joint motion in accordance with the procedure allowed under section 13(1)(b). That means that Tuesday’s debate will be on a motion relating to both the statement tabled on Monday under section 13(4) and the statement tabled today under section 13(11)(a). We will seek the House’s agreement to a full day’s debate, and the House will then give its preferred options. The Government will of course listen carefully, and next steps will be set out in due course.
The hon. Lady asked about the EU withdrawal agreement Bill. As she will know, it cannot be introduced until the House has approved its introduction in a meaningful vote, or in accordance with future next steps as agreed by the House. She asked about Brexit statutory instruments, and, in particular, asked for the statutory instrument on REACH to be dealt with on the Floor of the House. It is a parliamentary convention that when a reasonable request for a debate has been made, time should be allowed for that debate. However, as the hon. Lady knows, it is expected that in addition to raising the matter during business questions, Opposition Members should outline what they are requesting from the Government through the usual channels.
The hon. Lady asked about employment figures. I am sure that she, and indeed all Members, will be delighted to know that more people are employed than ever before, that the unemployment rate is the lowest that it has been since the 1970s, and that well over 3 million more people are employed now than in 2010. That is good news for people who will have more opportunities to provide for their families, which is absolutely vital.
The hon. Lady asked about the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. I should be grateful if she would write to me about that, so that I can respond to her directly. She also asked about Bank of England lending limits. I suggest that she should raise that issue during Treasury questions on 29 January.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the sentencing rules relating to convictions for dangerous driving? A judge in Bradford recently jailed a man whom he described as a “complete menace” on the roads for dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to provide a specimen, driving while uninsured, and possession of a small bag of cocaine. The man had 18 previous convictions for 33 offences. The judge complained about the fact that he was only able to sentence this individual to a maximum of two years in prison. He said that he would have sentenced him to four years if the law had allowed it, and urged Parliament to address the issue. Dangerous driving is a massive problem in the Bradford district. Will a Minister come to the House to explain what the Government will do to give judges the power that they need to take these menaces off the roads and put them in prison, where they belong?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. Dangerous driving has appalling consequences for far too many people across the country. Questions to the Attorney General will take place next Thursday, 31 January, and it would be appropriate for my hon. Friend to raise the issue then.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week, and may I thoroughly share her comments on Holocaust Memorial Day?
It is, of course, Burns night tomorrow, Mr Speaker, and we know how much you like your haggis. We can never forget the unforgettable Selkirk Grace that you gave at an SNP Burns supper a couple of years ago. Burns summed up Brexit perfectly when he said:
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
For those of my colleagues unschooled in 18th century Scots, “aft a-gley” means “gone to pot,” and nothing can better sum up this self-defeating, isolating, ugly disaster than Burns’ profound words.
On Tuesday we have the joys of Brexit amendment day. The selection of the amendments will be a matter exclusively for you, Mr Speaker, but I am sure the Leader of the House will want to confirm that it will be the Government’s sole objective to facilitate the will of the House on Tuesday: no tricks, no attempts to defy the will of the House, and all that will happen is that the Executive arm of this Parliament will be defeated once again.
Many people are under the misapprehension that Tuesday might mark the end of this nightmare, but unfortunately, of course, that is not the case. There is still to be “meaningful vote 2”—meaningful vote from beyond the grave on whatever form of a dead deal is brought back and resuscitated. So can the Leader of the House explain a little more and say what the process will be beyond Tuesday, and is there any truth in some of the rumours today that the Government now intend to drop the backstop entirely to get this through? I am sure it will delight the rest of the European Union if that is indeed the case.
Will the Leader of the House please confirm that we will be having our February recess? It was suggested—by, I think, Government Whips—that it would be withdrawn as some sort of punishment to a recalcitrant House for not agreeing their Brexit plan, and we would be delighted if that is no longer the case.
With the sheer numbers of all this Brexit delegated legislation there are not enough Members to facilitate that and serve on some of the Committees. Will the Leader of the House have a look at some of the arrangements for these DLs and see if more can be done to bundle them together to ensure that we have enough Members to serve on the Committees? As always, Mr Speaker, best laid plans, best laid plans.
I was going to perhaps borrow that quote from Robbie Burns myself, but what I will say back to the hon. Gentleman is:
“Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing”.
That was perhaps not said with the superbness of the hon. Gentleman’s accent, but we all love the poetry of Robbie Burns and I am grateful to him for raising it in this place.
The hon. Gentleman asked a series of questions about the next steps for next week. We will take a decision on the next steps following Tuesday’s debate. It is very important that we see what the House wishes to bring forward for discussion. Any keen readers of the excellent reports produced by the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin) will be well aware that when a motion is agreed to, with or without amendment, it becomes either an order or a resolution of the House. Using the words of the Clerk of the House to that Committee:
“an order is when the House orders one of its officers or sometimes...itself to do certain things that are within its ambit of power…A resolution is an expression of the House’s views”
on a particular issue. It is very important to understand the ramifications of Tuesday’s debate and I hope that that clears things up for the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Prime Minister’s deal will be revived, and I can say to him that while the negotiations with the EU have yielded an agreement, that agreement has not yet been agreed by Parliament, so our focus continues to be on what is needed to secure the support of this House in favour of a deal with the EU. The Prime Minister has spent the past week listening to colleagues from across Parliament from different parties and with different views, and she will continue to do so.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about Brexit statutory instruments and the capacity of the House to deal with them. He will be aware that over 300 Brexit SIs have been laid now. There are potentially up to 600 of them. That figure moves, as I have explained in this House a number of times; clarifications on policy issues and so on mean it is impossible to set out exactly how many SIs there will need to be in total, but we are confident that there will be enough time to pass all of those Brexit SIs that need to be passed by the date of leaving the European Union.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the future for animal welfare after we leave the European Union? Our standards of animal welfare in this country are second to none, and it would be good if we could spread that message throughout the world so that Japan stopped killing whales, Lithuania stopped breeding animals for their fur and 25 million songbirds were no longer netted and eaten throughout the Mediterranean.
My hon. Friend raises a matter that is of huge interest to many Members on both sides of the House. The Government have been clear that leaving the EU will not lead to a lowering of our high animal welfare standards. The UK already has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we are looking at what more we can do in the context of our future agriculture policy. He is also right to raise the issue of what more we can do around the world to encourage others to take the same or a similar attitude to our own preference for high animal welfare standards.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing the two debates next Thursday, on the Equitable Life scandal and on the sustainability of our nursery schools. I should also like to express my gratitude to her for announcing that the recess due to start on 14 February—Valentine’s day—will go ahead. That is very welcome, and it just goes to show that romance is not dead. May I also suggest that if Members want to put in to the Backbench Business Committee for debates on departmental estimates, they do so by Friday 8 February? They should not wait
“till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun”.
They should get their requests in by 8 February.
Will the Leader of the House clarify the situation in relation to Friday sitting days? Obviously, many Members had expected this Friday to be a sitting day, and my Creditworthiness Assessment Bill was on the list of many private Members’ Bills that could have been debated. It would be helpful to MPs, and to the campaigners who use these Bills and want to see them progress through the House, to hear a bit more about when we can get them debated, as they are an important part of the business of the House and clarification would be worth while.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has raised this issue, and I absolutely share her enthusiasm for the importance of legislation being brought forward by a number of private Members’ Bills. Examples are the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2018 and the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Act 2018, which have already received Royal Assent and will make a significant difference to people’s lives in our country. It is important that we continue to make progress with private Members’ Bills. There have been conversations in the usual channels, and my right hon. Friend will appreciate that, given that amendments had been tabled to yesterday’s motion, we had to take the decision not to move it so that further discussions could take place to ensure that all Members are given an equal opportunity to bring forward their own important private Members’ resolutions. We believe that consensus can be found, and I expect a further motion to be brought forward next week.
Will the Leader of the House be able to secure time for a debate on knife crime and the public policy responses to it? This is a big issue not only in London but in many of our cities, including Nottingham, and many people are facing challenges in the community. This is not just about the need for tougher sentencing for possession of a knife without just cause; I would also ask her to convey to Local Government Ministers that Nottingham’s bid to the troubled families programme for diversionary activity support to help to reduce exclusions from schools is part of the prevention package that we need.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this incredibly concerning issue. Across the House, we are all worried about the increase in the use of knives as the weapon of choice in lots of gang problems and in the appalling attacks that we have seen in recent days and months. I commend him for raising the matter. He will be aware that there is a three-hour debate on knife crime in Westminster Hall this afternoon, which he might well wish to take part in, but I can also assure him that the Government’s serious violence strategy, our Offensive Weapons Bill and our many investments in community schemes to encourage young people away from this appalling activity are top priorities for us.
The political and economic crisis in Venezuela means that 90% of its citizens are living in poverty. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign Secretary met Venezuelan diplomats yesterday, but I understand that they did not discuss the crisis. May we have a debate in Government time to demonstrate that the Government are taking seriously their responsibility to ensure that we undertake soft-power relations across the world?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. We have seen an appalling economic crisis in Venezuela, and the Foreign Office is carefully following the situation. Juan Guaidó has widespread support among Venezuelans, and the political crisis has gone on long enough. We want a way forward that leads to a peaceful solution for all Venezuelans, and I encourage my hon. Friend perhaps to seek a Westminster Hall debate, so that all hon. Members can discuss their views.
At this time of year, I always feel a bit envious of the Scottish poet and, as chair of the John Clare Trust, I wish that we could have John Clare suppers all over the country to celebrate the greatest English poet of the countryside.
On a more sombre note, has the Leader of the House seen the recent evidence about the quality of air that our children are breathing in? Not just in London, but up and down the country, all of us, including pregnant women and even people rowing on rivers, are absorbing high levels of poisonous atmospheric content, and it is causing real health problems. Is it not about time that we had real measures to clean up the filthy atmosphere that our children and our people are breathing in?
The hon. Gentleman raises a serious issue. This Government are committed to doing everything we can to try to improve the quality of our air. He may be pleased to know that the World Health Organisation has praised our clean air strategy as an example for the rest of the world to follow, with particular regard to our tackling of a range of issues, such as domestic stoves, open fires and so on. He will be aware that we are making available a significant £3.5 billion fund to reduce harmful emissions from road transport, including big investments in cycling and walking, supporting the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles and helping local authorities to develop and implement local air quality plans. There is much more do, and I commend the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter.
May we have a debate on local services? Yesterday, the SNP-led Moray Council announced that it was closing two swimming pools, six public libraries and every public toilet and axing every school crossing patroller as part of a series of swingeing budget cuts. Will the Leader of the House join me in condemning those SNP cuts in Moray and urge Moray’s representatives to speak to their party at Holyrood and ask Nicola Sturgeon to give Moray a fair deal to stop the cuts happening altogether?
I am disappointed to hear about the cuts in my hon. Friend’s constituency. As a result of our decisions at the most recent Budget, Scotland will benefit from a £950 million funding boost, so it seems extraordinary that the council is unable to continue to maintain services that are significant for his constituents.
Further to the earlier question about Venezuela, will the Government make an early statement to clarify their position on the interim President Juan Guaidó? Given that the Organisation of American States, Canada, the United States, a large number of Latin American countries and now some European countries are beginning to recognise him as president, may we have an urgent clarification of the UK Government’s position?
The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point. All hon. Members will be worried about what is happening in Venezuela, where we want to see not only stability, but an end to the appalling crisis that is leaving so many people starving. I will certainly take up his request with the Foreign Office.
May we have a debate on recruitment to the judiciary? Our judges are renowned the world over for their calibre and integrity, which underpin the success of our legal sector, but it is proving increasingly difficult to recruit those judges, so can we have a debate to ensure that this important issue for UK plc gets the attention it deserves?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his long-standing service on the Justice Committee. I gather that he has just retired from that Committee—he seems far too young to be retiring from anything, doesn’t he? He makes a serious and important point. We have Justice questions on 5 February at which I encourage him to raise his point directly with Ministers.
James Douglas, who died this week aged 30, was your constituent, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am aware that you have no voice in this House to talk of your constituents. James made a huge impact on both of us in the short time we knew him. He leaves a wife and a 14-month-old son. He died, tragically, having contracted motor neurone disease. His benefits assessment gave him zero points, and only days later he received a DS1500, which is given to people who are terminally ill.
James was the inspiration behind my Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill, which would alter legislation to remove the six-month terminal illness definition. We have no more sitting Fridays, as far as we know. Could we therefore have an opportunity in Government time to debate removing the six-month rule on terminal illness so that we can move things forward?
I send my sympathies to James’s family, and I think the whole House would want to send their condolences. This is a very sad story, and I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her efforts to get her Bill through. As she may have heard me say in response to a previous question, I hope to be able to table a motion next week, or at least as soon as possible, to provide further private Members’ Bills days. There are discussions through the usual channels to ensure that I can do that, and I hope her Bill will be able to make progress.
Yesterday, the Labour Towns group sponsored a debate on a town of culture award, and 20 Back-Bench Members spoke in just 40 minutes, which is possibly a record. May we have a debate in Government time on encouraging our national museums and galleries to loan their artefacts and paintings, some of which have never seen the light of day, to pop-up galleries and museums in the poorest towns of the United Kingdom?
What has happened to the Agriculture Bill? The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said at the Oxford farming conference that he hoped that the Bill would be with us by the end of January.
In late 2017, the Government fought off a rebellion on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in relation to article 13 of the Lisbon treaty by saying that they would introduce an animal sentience Bill. What has happened to that?
The hon. Lady will be aware that the Agriculture Bill is going through the parliamentary process as we speak. It will make a decisive shift in support for farmers and ensure that their contribution to maintaining our countryside and producing healthy food is greater than ever before. She will no doubt also be aware that we have committed to a future Bill that will set out the requirement agreed during the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to establish a new body to ensure that we keep environmental standards high to meet our ambition to be a world leader. That Bill will also include a statement and confirmation on the subject of animal sentience.
The Public and Commercial Services Union has launched its booklet “Social security: the case for radical change”. Can we have a debate in Government time on issues such as universalism versus conditionality and a radical overhaul of our social security system?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are seeking to roll out a vastly improved system of support to help people to get into work, and also to provide greater support for those with disabilities to enable them to lead more fulfilling lives. We have had a number of debates, urgent questions and statements about our social security system. I encourage him, if he would value a further debate, to talk to the Backbench Business Committee and seek the views of colleagues from right across the House.
Thirteen years on from the collapse of Farepak, it is good to see the Government finally responding to the Law Commission’s proposals to protect consumers in such things as Christmas savings schemes. On behalf of amazing Farepak campaigner Councillor Deb Harvey, may I ask the Leader of the House to find out when the Government might introduce much-needed legislation in this area?
I pay tribute to Councillor Deb Harvey for her work—she has, as the hon. Lady suggests, contributed a huge amount to pushing this issue forward. I do not know the answer to the hon. Lady’s specific question, but if she would like to contact me after business questions, I will be happy to take the matter up with the relevant Department on her behalf.
We had a little sprinkling of snow on Wednesday, and of course transport chaos ensued. My constituents are mystified as to why, two days later, we still have no trains running on the Ellesmere Port line. Ellesmere Port is a wonderful place, but it does not have its own microclimate, so we do not know why trains all around us are running while we are still without a service. We get the feeling that we are being treated as second-class citizens. Can we have a debate, please, on more accountability and competence in the rail network?
I am sorry to hear about the experience of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. It is appalling when train services are not running, and I completely sympathise. He will be aware that the Government are spending £48 billion—more money than at any time since Victorian days—on the railways to maintain, modernise and renew them so as to deliver better journeys and fewer disruptions. I am genuinely sorry to hear about the problems that he is experiencing, and I encourage him to take the matter up directly in an Adjournment debate so that Ministers can look into those specific problems.
The Leader of the House will recall that hon. Members, including myself, have raised serious concerns on a number of occasions about foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Most recently, I tabled early-day motion 1911 highlighting the results of research into FASD by Bristol University, which found that up to 17% of children in its research sample of more than 13,000 could have symptoms consistent with FASD.
[That this House is deeply concerned at the new research undertaken by Bristol University which has concluded that up to 17 per cent of children could have symptoms consistent with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder; notes the results of the research that up to 79 per cent of children in the research sample of 13,495 were exposed to alcohol consumed in pregnancy and that up to 25 per cent of those children were exposed to binge levels of alcohol in pregnancy; and therefore calls on the Government and the health and education services to take urgent steps to reduce and eliminate alcohol consumption in pregnancy so that children do not suffer irreparable alcohol-related lifetime damage that would diminish their chances of leading healthy, happy, successful and fulfilling lives.]
In the light of that, and much other evidence, will the Leader of the House press her colleagues in government to introduce effective means of addressing this scourge in view of the damage it is doing to millions of lives and its enormous social cost across all of society?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this incredibly troubling issue. We have had a number of debates on the subject. He may be aware that the Prime Minister has asked me to chair a cross-Whitehall group to look at what more can be done to support every family with a new baby in the early days, and this issue is in scope of that review.
May I ask the Leader of the House to join me, my constituents, our Cardiff City football club family and fans across the world—especially in Nantes and Argentina—in desperately hoping that our young striker Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson have survived, as the search for them continues?
We have all been really shocked to hear of this potential loss of life. I know that everything is being done to try to find out what has happened. I absolutely share in the hon. Lady’s tribute to the football player and the pilot, and I share in the sadness of all those football supporters.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the recently published “Preliminary report into the law and procedures in serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland”, by Sir John Gillen? It highlights some startling concerns, including the
“lengthy delays in the court process in Northern Ireland compared with other parts of the UK”
and the fact that 40% of complainants in Northern Ireland who raise a sexual offence with the police drop out of the process because they are so harassed in the lead-up to the trial, with those cases never reaching trial.
Given that we have no Assembly in Northern Ireland to make progress on the important recommendations identified by Sir John Gillen, will the Leader of the House ultimately provide time for a debate here and then ensure that procedures are put in place that will allow the enactment of the recommendations for the justice system in Northern Ireland, so that we can bring about good, effective justice for victims of sexual crime in Northern Ireland?
I was not aware of the particular report that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I know that there would be enormous concern across the House about a failure in any part of the United Kingdom properly to consider issues relating to sexual offences. He will be aware that we have Northern Ireland questions on Wednesday 30 January, and I am sure he could seek an Adjournment debate so that he can take up the matter directly with Ministers and discuss what more can be done.
I want to talk about the B-word, but thankfully it is not Brexit today. I want to know why funding for bus services has been halved in the past eight years. It has had a huge impact on my constituents, particularly those who live in semi-rural and rural areas. Social isolation remains a big issue, yet bus companies seem constantly to put profits before people and passengers. May we have a debate on the demise of local bus services?
Should we do such a thing, I would be tempted to join in. Bus services in my constituency have really been cut. I have been looking at community bus services, with some success, and I know that lots of parish councils and communities are seeking to take matters into their own hands and provide themselves with a bus service. I really do pay tribute to all those who do that. The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, which is of grave concern. The taxpayer is spending £1 billion every year on free bus travel for older and disabled people, and £250 million to keep fares down and maintain an extensive bus network, but there are clearly problems, and I encourage the hon. Lady to seek a Westminster Hall debate or a Back-Bench debate so that she can discuss the issue with Ministers.
The Leader of the House may have noted Santander’s announcement yesterday that it plans to close 140 of its branches around the UK, with up to 1,200 jobs at risk. Those planned closures include 15 branches in Scotland, among which is Santander’s Springburn branch in my constituency. I thought the justification that the bank gave was rather dubious, because it suggested that many people were transferring to using mobile and internet banking technology, but in fact the majority of the users of the branch in my constituency do not use internet or mobile banking, and it is the only branch available without their having to get an exorbitantly priced bus ride into the city centre. The closure will clearly have a massive impact, particularly on elderly people and those who are less able readily to use new technologies. We had a debate on this issue a year ago and clearly nothing has changed, so will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate in Government time on the community impact of large-scale bank branch closures? It is clearly having an impact and we need to consider legislation.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there are quite strict rules regarding consultation and the provision of a proper evidence base before bank branches are closed. He will also be aware of the agreement with post offices such that they can provide basic banking services, which enable small businesses and individuals to fulfil most of their banking needs. Nevertheless, we must recognise that such services are commercially provided and that the banks have certainly seen a significant drop in footfall. The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue for his local communities and I am very sympathetic, so I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss the matter directly with a Minister.
The Department for Education is consulting on proposals to allocate up to £910 million in additional funding to schools and colleges in England to cover higher teacher pension scheme costs in 2019-20. Can we please have a statement clarifying the basis on which this figure was calculated, and whether a Barnett consequential of it will be sufficient to cover the costs in Wales? Given that schools and colleges in Wales will also be impacted by these changes, the UK Government must ensure that funding is made available to them, so that they can fully cover the increased costs.
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s question. I can well understand it. Schools must be able to cover all the incidental costs arising from changes in pensions policy and so on. He will be aware that we have invested significant sums in schooling to ensure that schools can meet those incidental costs. With regard to his specific question, I would encourage him either to seek an Adjournment debate or to send parliamentary written questions to Ministers.
Planned changes to eligibility for pension credit have recently come to light. They will amount to a loss of up to £7,320 per year for mixed-aged couples, could have a devastating effect on the health and wellbeing of some older people, and could push more pensioners into poverty. It is yet another financial blow to women born in the 1950s, who have had little notice of their delayed pension pay-out. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out why the UK Government believe these changes necessary and how they will improve the lives of some of our poorest pensioners?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this issue. It is incredibly important that we consider all the issues around pension changes. She will be aware that the Government have sought to ensure fairness between pensions for different types of workers, while recognising that as we live longer, affordability needs to be taken carefully into account. She may be aware that there is a debate next week, on Thursday 31 January, on pensions, and she might like to participate in that.
Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the disappearance in Cairo of the Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni. His body was subsequently recovered. He had been brutally tortured and murdered. The case has attracted international attention to issues of human rights and academic freedom. Can we finally have a debate in this place on the work the Government have done to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to reveal the truth about what happened to Giulio?
I am sorry to hear that it is nearing the third anniversary—it is extraordinary how fast time passes—and I am sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s request for further clarification. I would encourage him to raise the matter directly with Ministers at the next Foreign Office questions, so that they can prepare an update for him on exactly what steps they have taken.
The Holmes review explored how to further open up public appointments to disabled people, and recommended a target of 11.3% disabled public appointees by 2022, with a review by the end of this year. Can we have a statement about how this goal might be achieved?
I think all hon. Members would support a target to ensure that those with particular needs are catered for in our housing policy. He will be aware that we have Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday 28 January, and I would encourage him to raise that question directly with Ministers.
My office was recently contacted by a young woman who had fled domestic violence elsewhere in the UK. She was preparing to sleep rough on the streets of Glasgow that night, having been asked to leave a temporary accommodation centre in my constituency and turned away from every other temporary accommodation centre because she was on a student visa and had no recourse to public funds. It was only through the diligence of my caseworker that a charity was found that was able to offer her shelter, and she has now successfully applied for asylum. Can we have a debate in Government time on the gap in support for women in that situation?
The hon. Gentleman raises a horrible case. It is awful to hear of someone fleeing domestic violence and being unable to find shelter overnight, and he is absolutely right to raise it. He will be aware that the Government are committing more than £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, including by looking at provision in different areas, but I would encourage him to raise his specific question at local government questions on Monday 28 January.
Last Friday, I joined students at Ellis Guilford School in my constituency as they took part in a “Be Internet Citizens” workshop, hosted by Google and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The day helped those young people learn about fake news and about hate, on and offline. It will really give them the skills to thrive, on and offline, in their daily lives. Can we have a discussion in Government time about the importance of teaching our young people those skills at the earliest possible age?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really valid point about teaching young people how to better protect themselves, and he is absolutely right to do so. There is so much that we can do both in terms of encouragement and legislation to ensure that the big social media companies take responsibility, but nothing could be better than encouraging more young people to understand that they themselves need to challenge what they are seeing online. I commend him for raising that point, and I encourage him perhaps to raise it again at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions next week on 31 January.
May we have a Government statement on reports that the Ministry of Defence is considering destroying the files relating to the RAF helicopter disaster on the Mull of Kintyre in my Argyll and Bute constituency in June 1994? It is still the RAF’s worse peacetime loss of life. Given the controversy surrounding the tragedy, does the Leader of the House share my concern that if the RAF does destroy those files, the MOD could actually be destroying the only future pathway to establishing exactly what happened on that awful night?
Reports from Yemen say that members of the Baha’i religious community are increasingly being persecuted by Houthi rebels. Many Baha’i leaders are facing spurious criminal charges, and the Houthi leadership has refused appeals to release Baha’is who are imprisoned for their faith. In a televised speech just last year, the leader of the Houthis nullified and denounced the Baha’i faith, further intensifying the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in that country. Obviously, it is a very important matter. Can we have a statement or a debate on it?
The hon. Gentleman raises an issue of great concern, which is the religious persecution of minorities. On this occasion, it is in Yemen, which is, in itself, the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. What we all want, and what this Government are working towards, is success in the peace talks, and to be able to provide a long-term resolution to the problem in Yemen. He raises a very serious point about religious persecution, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise it directly with Ministers.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance, which will benefit a number of constituents who have emailed me this morning, following the publication of the amendments for next Tuesday’s business on section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. When will we know Mr Speaker’s selection of amendments? When he has made his selection, can you advise me on whether the amendments will be moved, spoken to and voted on in the order in which they appear on the Order Paper, or in alphabetical order, because there is a difference between the two?
Will you indulge me further, Madam Deputy Speaker? When we know about the selection of amendments, will there be guidance on whether, if one amendment is successful in the Division Lobby, subsequent amendments can stand, or whether they must fall, before we debate the substantive motion?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The selection will be made on the day. The further point that he raised with regard to whether one amendment will fall if another succeeds will obviously depend on the amendments themselves. Mr Speaker will announce his selection on the day.