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Points of Order

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 7 December 2022

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In “Game of Thrones”, it was famously said that, “Winter is coming”, and no one is more conscious of that than the Ukrainians. As a member of the Defence Committee, and having recently returned from Ukraine, I know that after as a cry for more weapons, their second greatest cry was for generators to help power things such as hospitals through the winter if they lose more power stations to Russian missile strikes.

I raise this issue now, Sir, because on the previous urgent question I, like a number of Members from across the House, made a plea to the Government to look at some kind of scheme to sponsor the delivery of generators to Ukraine. As the Business Secretary is at the Dispatch Box, I wanted him to hear this. My ask, through you, is whether the Government could come up with some kind of “Power for Ukraine” scheme, where British companies could either sponsor the cost of a generator or provide one if they had one of their own, perhaps in their warehouse or truck park, that is not really doing anything but could save lives in a hospital or other facility in Ukraine. Will the Secretary of State undertake to look at how we might do that and see whether he can come back to the House with some idea of how we could save lives?

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I spoke to Mr Speaker about an hour ago about my intention to raise a point of order. While I have been in this Chamber for the past two hours, as the secretary of the all-party group on Ukraine I have been made aware of the fact that the Lawn Tennis Association has been sanctioned by the Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body of tennis, for the LTA’s announcement of a ban on Russian and Belarusian players from its tournaments last year. The LTA has been fined $1 million as well. What would be the best way for this House to show its unity with the LTA and urge that any fines levied are given to the humanitarians efforts in Ukraine, perhaps to fund some more generators for the Ukrainian people, who are suffering from Putin’s barbaric invasion?

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very much aware of the hardships being caused by a lack of power and utilities in Ukraine. We have three Ukrainians who live in our home and still work online with Ukraine. They have been explaining that it is very difficult to work with people in Ukraine because half the time their equipment is down and they cannot get access to the workplaces and data. So I know the problems are very acute. I also know that the UK led the global community when we were asked previously and we provided generators; we were the first country in the world to do so in significant numbers. I believe that almost 1,000 generators were supplied to Ukraine at the time.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) will be interested to know that I was speaking to the Ukrainian ambassador just last night about this issue, and I regularly speak to Oleksandr Kubrakov who is, in part, in charge of energy and infrastructure in Ukraine. I will be taking those conversations forward. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right to raise this issue. The way that Putin is now prosecuting this war, going after civilian infrastructure, is illegal and indefensible.

On the Lawn Tennis Association, which is not quite in my area, that fine is, of course, absolutely outrageous.

I shall also add my words to that. The right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) is an experienced Member, and I am sure that he will use Question Time, Adjournment debates and the statements that we will inevitably have in future to put on the record his disgust and his feelings of unity with the people of Ukraine.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have repeatedly raised the anguish that my constituents, the parents of Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry, are going through. Chloe and Liam were murdered in the Manchester Arena terror attack. Archaic law in relation to terror attacks prevents my constituents, and all other grieving parents, from registering their precious children’s deaths. Instead, the registration will be done by a registrar—a complete stranger to the family.

I first raised this matter in March with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Since then, I and the parents have had ministerial meetings. I have constantly raised their distress in this Chamber, held an Adjournment debate, submitted two early-day motions and sent countless letters and emails. Time and again, the then Home Office Minister responsible promised that a decision on changing the legislation was imminent. The final inquiry report into the attack is due in January. That is when the children’s deaths will have to be registered.

Since the beginning of September, Home Office Ministers and the two Secretaries of State for Justice have completely ignored my correspondence—that is until this afternoon when they asked me not to raise this point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, why do my constituents have to suffer because this Government are not fit to govern and cannot get their act together? Please can you advise me how on earth we are supposed to get an answer from those on the Treasury Bench before January?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for indicating that she was going to raise this matter. I am sure that all Members will wish to express their sympathies for her constituents. She has clearly pursued this important issue with tenacity. Indeed, I have been in the Chair and heard her raise this issue before. Everybody here understands why she wants this matter resolved. Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard her comments. Let me say that again: Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard her comments, and I hope that they will be able to respond to her speedily.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Local authorities and Sheffield City Council have declared a major incident in my constituency. In Stannington, in my constituency, 6,000 litres and counting of water have been pumped out of a gas main, and there is still a lot of water left in that gas main. That has impacted 2,000 properties, hundreds of which are still without gas since Friday. Some streets have been left with repeated power cuts, with no way to heat their homes effectively or to cook food. The Council Leader has said that the area is at risk of a humanitarian crisis. Tomorrow, snow is predicted, which will hamper efforts to get people back online. Residents need more support now. Hundreds of vulnerable residents have been identified, and the ground effort by Cadent, Yorkshire Water and the council has been huge, and I thank them for that.

However, I wrote to the Secretaries of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and to the Chancellor on Tuesday and I am yet to receive a full response. I am very conscious that the council needs not just money, but resources. Parts are needed to repair boilers and meters need to be replaced. This is a huge effort. Water is flowing out of people’s ovens, out of their fires and out of their boilers, which should be sealed, and getting past the water meter. This is an unprecedented incident and “novel”, as it has been described to me, which really needs some support and action to make sure that we have the right infrastructure on the ground. I do not think that it can be left to the local authorities to organise that.

Have you, Mr Deputy Speaker, had notice of any statements from any of the three Secretaries of State whose portfolios cover this matter? How can I best get action to make sure that we have a co-ordinated effort from this place to support my community, which is obviously really suffering?

I thank the hon. Member for raising that point of order. It sounds absolutely appalling and she is right to raise it today as a point of order. I have had no indication that any Minister is to make a statement further to the ones that we have already had. If that changes, clearly, the House will be notified in the usual manner. The Treasury Bench has heard what has been said, and I ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to make sure that these points get passed to the Departments that the hon. Member has mentioned.

Bill Presented

Pre-Payment Meters (Temporary Prohibition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Wera Hobhouse, supported by Richard Foord, Mr Alistair Carmichael and Wendy Chamberlain, presented a Bill to prohibit the installation of new pre-payment meters for domestic energy customers before 31 March 2023; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the first time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 February 2023, and to be printed (Bill 212).