All 37 Parliamentary debates on 21st Jun 2021

Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021

House of Commons

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Monday 21 June 2021
The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Virtual participation in proceedings commenced (Orders, 4 June and 30 December 2020).
[NB: [V] denotes a Member participating virtually.]

New Member

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The following Member made and subscribed the Affirmation required by law:
Sarah Green, for Chesham and Amersham.
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I am suspending the House briefly to allow the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.

00:03
Sitting suspended.

Speaker’s Statement

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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00:03
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I wish to make a statement about the senior leadership of the House of Commons service. I am pleased to announce that, following a competitive recruitment process, Marianne Cwynarski CBE has been appointed as director general of the House of Commons service with immediate effect. Marianne is currently the managing director of the Governance Office and the secretary to the House of Commons Commission. She has taken a leading and very successful role in ensuring that the House service has been able to operate effectively during the covid-19 pandemic. I wish personally to congratulate Marianne on her appointment and look forward to working with her in her new role. I am sure the House will agree that she has already given sterling service to this House—may that continue.

Oral Answers to Questions

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to provide disadvantaged students with access to high-quality tutoring support.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to provide high-quality catch-up support to students.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to provide high-quality tutoring to disadvantaged students.

Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan (Bolton North East) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to provide high-quality tutoring to disadvantaged students.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to provide high-quality tutoring to disadvantaged students.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell [V]
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Early feedback from my local school leaders suggests that tutoring is going to make a real difference, but there is some small concern that it can come with an opportunity cost in the school day, potentially affecting pupils’ experience of a broad and balanced curriculum, especially the creative arts and sports. Is that therefore an important consideration in the debate about having a longer school day, especially if tutoring could prove to be the longer-term strategy that we need to address the pre-pandemic attainment gap?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Secretary of State, will you please pick up the first part of the question?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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My hon. Friend raises an important issue. As we bring forward the largest investment in tutoring that this country has ever seen, we want to look at how we can continue to make changes and improvements to the whole of the school day. That way, we can not only embed the tutoring revolution that we are driving forward but ensure that the other areas of enrichment that are so important for a child’s development are properly incorporated into any changes.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney
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My area of Kirklees continues to have higher covid case rates than the national average, which means that more pupils and students are having to self-isolate and miss classroom teaching, which has an increased impact on wellbeing and mental health. Will the Secretary of State please tell me what extra catch-up funding and support is available for schools and colleges in areas such as mine, where there are above average rates of absence?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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As my hon. Friend will be aware, there is a £650 million universal catch-up premium, as well as the recovery premium. That funding is very much to ensure that schools such as those in his constituency are best able to target that money at the areas that will have the most impact on children. We must not lose sight of the fact that children from whatever background have been impacted as a result of covid, which is why we have always aimed to have flexibility in the system so that schools can support all children.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith [V]
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I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments. What particular support will be made available to disadvantaged pupils who have a disability and are therefore more affected still?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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My hon. Friend raises a vital point. That is why we took the decision to ensure a higher rate of funding for special schools and for schools that provide alternative provision, recognising that they will want more specialist and one-to-one tutoring for those children.

Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan [V]
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Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me to discuss Tutor the Nation, which is now being rolled out right across Bolton, and the lessons that it might provide for the rest of the country?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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I would very much like to hear not only how Tutor the Nation is tutoring Bolton, but how we can do so much more to tutor all the other parts of the nation as well, so I would be more than delighted to meet my hon. Friend. I will ask my office to get in touch with him so that we can meet to discuss the work that Tutor the Nation is doing in his constituency.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
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Will the Secretary of State please update the House on progress with the special educational needs and disability review and also confirm that we will be investing more in focused intervention for those who need extra support?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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I know that this issue is close to my hon. Friend’s heart. Yes, we have been making progress on the special educational needs review. Sadly, as a result of a pandemic, the speed at which we had hoped to bring it back to the House has been slowed, but we will be providing an update in the near future. It is incredibly important that our interventions for children with the most acute needs are specially tailored to address not only some of the challenges that covid has thrown up, but the continuing challenges that all children with special educational needs experience.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State tell the House what proportion of children will have received tutoring under the national tutoring programme by the end of this academic year?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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We had set out the aim of having a quarter of a million children going through the national tutoring programme, but, as a result of the take-up of the programme and the success that individual and small group tutoring has had, we have set out an ambition and an aim to massively expand that programme over the coming years.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green
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The latest figures show that it is just under 3% of pupils in this academic year, and even the funding for next year will reach only 8% of students, yet last week in Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said that the Government want to get on the side of all kids who do not have access to tuition and support them. Why did the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister fail to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to invest in what Sir Kevan Collins said is needed to secure children’s futures, or does he in fact agree with the Chancellor who has said that the Government have “maxed out” on support?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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The Prime Minister and I have outlined a clear plan to roll out tutoring to 6 million children up and down the country. We recognise the importance of small group tutoring and how it can benefit every child. That is why we have set out our ambition, and that is what we will deliver. It has already been an incredibly successful programme. We want to build on it. We want to add extra flexibility for schools so that we can reach all children right across the nation.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let us go to the Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) [V]
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Even before the pandemic, persistent absence—pupils missing 10% or more of their education—was alarmingly high, at 13.1%. As pupils have returned, the overall rate has remained stubbornly high at 13%, or at around 916,000 pupils. For secondary pupils, it has actually risen from 15% to 16.3%. What are the Department’s plans to bring persistent absence down?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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This is an incredibly important area. At the very start of the pandemic, we set up the regional education and children’s teams—REACT—which were a co-operation between schools, local government, the Department for Education and the police in order to target some of the youngsters who struggle the most and are most likely not to be in school. We continue to expand that work through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to help the families who struggle the most, and recognise that it is children in that category who are most vulnerable and possibly the most likely to have persistent absence from schools. We will continue to work across Government, recognising that it is not just about schools, but about local authorities, the police, health and social care coming together to bring children back into the classroom and to ensure that they are not missing out on school.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
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What assessment he has made of the potential merits of providing financial education to children at primary school level.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb)
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It is important that pupils are well prepared to manage their money, make sound financial decisions and know where to seek further information. Financial education forms part of the citizenship curriculum, which can be taught at all key stages but is compulsory at key stages 3 and 4.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
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In 2013, the Money and Pensions Service found that our money habits and attitudes towards finance are formed by the age of seven. However, eight years later the Government have still not made financial education compulsory within the primary school curriculum. Does the Minister agree that teaching our children positive saving habits at a young age is vital to their financial futures, and that dormant assets from the savings and investment sector could fund initiatives such as KickStart Money to deliver primary financial education for all?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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The priority at primary school must be to ensure that all children have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of arithmetic: that they can add, subtract, multiply and divide; that they know their times tables by heart; and that they can add, subtract and multiply fractions. In 2013, the Government introduced a new primary maths curriculum that includes ratio and proportions, that teaches pupils to use percentages and that introduces them to algebra. In year 2, pupils are introduced to the values of our coinage. That is all fundamental to being secure in handling finances and being taught financial education at key stage 3.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
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What steps he is taking to support universities to provide courses on (a) performing and creative arts, (b) media studies and (c) archaeology.

Michelle Donelan Portrait The Minister for Universities (Michelle Donelan)
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This Government value the arts and social sciences. High-quality provision in a range of subjects, including archaeology, is vital for our workforce and public services, and is culturally enriching for society. Universities receive a top-up from the taxpayer for all the subjects referred to, and although the Office for Students consultation has proposed changes to the amounts, it does not seek to remove the top-up entirely.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood [V]
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The Government’s decision to cut funding to performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology courses by a total of £20 million will diminish our future cultural offer, reduce opportunities for students and put jobs at risk. The University and College Union is campaigning hard to save jobs at the University of Chester; I pay tribute to it for doing so. Nevertheless, the university is still planning to make redundancies in some areas, including music, media and performance. Does the Minister recognise the huge contribution that arts and culture make to the UK economy and to all our lives, and will she support the UCU campaign to save jobs at the University of Chester?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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Despite the hon. Member’s claims, the strategic priorities grant accounts for approximately only 0.05% of higher education providers’ total income. The House should be under no illusion that this Government 100% support the arts, which is why we asked the OFS to invest an additional £10 million in our world-leading specialist providers, many of which specialise in arts provision, and why we have spent £2 billion through the cultural recovery programme, plus furlough and plus VAT and other reliefs—more than any other country.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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Research by the British Academy has shown that of the 10 fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, eight employ more graduates from the arts, humanities and social sciences than the other disciplines, and MillionPlus states that

“there is an economic imperative to invest in creative arts education…job creation is double the rate of the rest of the economy.”

Just take media studies, which the Government state is not a strategic priority, despite our making some of the best films, TV, theatre and advertising in the world. Last year the UK saw inward investment in co-production spend in film and TV account for 83% of the entire production spend, underlining our global reputation. The Government seem to be unaware that this country is a globally renowned creative powerhouse. Can I just urge the Government to get into SHAPE—social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy? Will the Minister accept that the benefit that this nation derives from university education cannot be measured solely in terms of its immediate economic impact?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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Just to reiterate, this Government are not disputing the value of the arts either to our economy or to our society. I want to fully confirm that on the record. We have asked the OfS to consult on altering the high-cost subject funding to enable a reprioritisation of some subjects towards the provision of high-cost subjects that support the NHS and wider healthcare policy, high-cost STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—subjects, and subjects meeting specific labour market needs. I reiterate that this accounts for only approximately 0.05% of higher education providers’ total income.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley (Mansfield) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to improve (a) the quality of schools and (b) outcomes for pupils in the most disadvantaged areas.

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
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I am committed to levelling up education, and see strong multi-academy trusts as the best vehicle for achieving this. That is why we are investing £10 million in four high-needs areas, including Ashfield and Mansfield, to improve pupil outcomes. Up to half of this will be channelled through the successful trust capacity fund.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley [V]
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I welcome the news that Mansfield and Ashfield will get a share of that £10 million fund to drive school improvement in disadvantaged areas and to boost academic outcomes for our young people. That is very welcome indeed. The other half of this conversation is perhaps about the non-academic side—the cultural enrichment, extra-curricular activities and raising of aspirations that might support young people to reach their potential. What opportunities might exist in that kind of space for our schools to access support?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point to the enrichment that goes on in so many of the most successful schools right across the country. That is why we are absolutely committed to trying to work with trusts from across the country to target areas such as Mansfield and Ashfield to bring the most successful trusts into those areas to drive up educational attainment. We look forward to working with him. I will be delighted to sit down with him to discuss what more we can do to drive not just academic attainment across schools in his constituency but the rich cultural offer that schools can offer their pupils, which is incredibly important for all children.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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It might be raining today in London, but in Glasgow and across Scotland the sun is out, which is great because over the next week Scottish schools break up for their summer holidays. I am sure the whole House will join me in thanking the teachers and support staff for the great work they have done and will wish Scottish schoolchildren and young people a very safe and enjoyable summer holiday.

Improving academic outcomes for disadvantaged children needs strong, professional input, but hunger is not conducive to effective learning, so when will we see this Government mirror the approach of the Scottish Government and provide free school meals for all primary schoolchildren?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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I very much join the hon. Lady in thanking teachers not just across Scotland but right across the United Kingdom; they have done an amazing job. It is lovely to see her in the Palace of Westminster after a period of time. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that we support families and support children. That is why we are rolling out our holiday activities and food programme, which is an incredibly important part of supporting children not just by feeding them but by providing activities as well.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
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Unfortunately the Secretary of State avoids the question. For many families on the edge, free school meals really do make a difference. It is a tale of two Governments, because the Scottish Government are focused on the health and wellbeing of children, including the transformational Scottish child payment of £10 a week per eligible child, and the UK Government are not taking action on free school meals and primary schoolchildren. Will he update the House on any discussions he has had with the Chancellor to provide more money in this area, and possibly even on retaining the £20 a week universal credit uplift?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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One of the great advantages of being a United Kingdom is that we are able to pull together and ensure that there is the support that has been made available, whether that is through the furlough scheme, which everyone within the United Kingdom has been able to benefit from; whether that is through the uplifts in universal credit, which everyone right across the United Kingdom has been able to benefit from; or whether that is through the continued action that we have undertaken to put in extra funding, including for free school meals and for the holiday activities and food programme, which the devolved Administrations, including the Scottish Government, have been able to benefit from as a result of the Barnett consequentials that have fed through as a result.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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If he will publish a long-term financial settlement for maintained nursery schools.

Vicky Ford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Vicky Ford)
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Maintained nursery schools are an important part of the early years sector and provide valuable services, especially in disadvantaged areas. The Government remain committed to their long-term funding and to reaching a long-term solution by working with the sector. Any reform of its funding will follow a public consultation.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
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I am grateful to the Minister for her reply, but we need this long-term settlement for maintained nursery schools. There are three wonderful maintained nursery schools in my constituency, and their very survival is now in jeopardy. We need that long-term settlement and, even more urgently, we need a consultation on reallocating supplementary funding so that areas such as Barnet, which has got zero from that funding, can actually receive some of it as an interim solution to keep the maintained nursery schools above water until we get that settlement.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
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My right hon. Friend is a true, passionate spokesperson for the maintained nursery schools sector. Supplementary funding allows the local authorities to protect their maintained nursery schools at the 2016-17 funding level. Back in 2017, Barnet got a 23% increase in its early years funding rate. That is now the 11th highest rate in England, so supplementary funding was not provided because there was not a funding gap in the MNS sector to protect. The next spending review will consider future Government funding, including that for maintained nursery schools.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
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When he plans to announce the results of the recent round of applications for the school rebuilding programme.

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
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We announced the first 50 rebuilding projects in February as part of the commitment to 500 projects over the next decade. A process to identify the next 50 projects, informed by the Department’s data on the condition of schools, began in March, and we plan to confirm which schools are included later on this year.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson [V]
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The Secretary of State will know that Upton-by-Chester High School in my constituency is rated good, with an outstanding sixth form, but it needs a rebuild, and the local authority maintenance repair budget is inappropriate and insufficient. What advice can the Secretary of State therefore give to me, the governors and the headteacher at Upton High to ensure that we are on that next list?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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As tempted as I am to pre-announce that list to the hon. Gentleman, I am afraid I am not in that position. I would be very happy to meet him to discuss some of the challenges that he has. The reason that we have announced a commitment to the rebuilding of 500 schools, admittedly over a number of years, is so that we are able to have proper sight of some of the challenges that high schools and primary schools face, have proper information on their condition and have a proper understanding as to where that priority sits as part of a broader national priority. I would be very happy to sit down with the hon. Gentleman to discuss that in further detail.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)
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What plans he has to implement the recommendations of the UK Committee for UNICEF and the Carnegie UK Trust's report entitled “Closing the Digital Divide for Good”.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb)
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Over 1.3 million laptops and tablets and 75,000 4G wireless routers have been distributed to schools and local authorities. We are building on the Department’s significant investment in devices, platforms, training and digital services to develop an evidence-based strategy for the most effective long-term approach to digital technology in education.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh
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Before the lockdown, children on the wrong side of the digital divide were already leaving school behind their classmates. Schools closed, and despite the Government’s tech roll-out and the great community effort right across the country, a quarter of children on free school meals did less than one hour’s school work a week. This is not a problem for the past; closing the digital divide will be critical to genuinely levelling up our tech-reliant society. Will the Government support my campaign calling for every child entitled to a free school meal to have internet access and an adequate device at home?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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I read the joint article in The Times this morning by the hon. Member and my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) about the UNICEF report and her objectives, and I agree with much of what they have both written, particularly about the importance of closing the digital divide. I am grateful for the acknowledgement in that article of the much needed support to disadvantaged children that the provision by this Government of 1.3 million laptops and tablets gave. One should not underestimate the size and scale of that procurement: 1.3 million devices built to order, shipped, configured and delivered to schools and local authorities, all at a time of peak international demand for such computer equipment.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
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What recent progress the Government have made on enabling the parents of summer-born and premature children to defer their child’s school start date.

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb)
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We published guidance in 2020 on the delayed admission of summer-born children to a reception class where that is what parents want. In May, the Secretary of State issued a statement to ensure admissions authorities take these decisions in the best interests of the child, and we will legislate when parliamentary time permits.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond [V]
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I thank my right hon. Friend and the Department for their continuing support for my campaign to recognise the need for summer-born children to have that flexibility. He rightly says that the Department will legislate as and when is appropriate, but can I urge him to speak again to the Treasury to point out that it would be one of the most effective ways of levelling up and creating levelling-up opportunities? Will he meet me to discuss what the Treasury’s response might be and what more can be done to ensure that legislation is brought forward?

Nick Gibb Portrait Nick Gibb
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Yes, of course, I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. Summer-born children who defer entry to school by a year continue of course to be entitled to a childcare place before they start school, so the costs will depend on the number of parents who choose to delay entry and the need for childcare. However, I should say to my hon. Friend that, in the surveys we have been carrying out with local authorities, the vast majority of requests to delay entry and to return to school in reception rather than year 1 are granted by local authorities.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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What recent assessment he has made of trends in the cost of school transport.

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the past three years, there has been an 18% increase in local authority spend on school transport, reaching £1.3 billion in the year 2019-20.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy [V]
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Although St Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham has done its best to subsidise the cost of school transport for families over the past year, it can no longer afford to do so, and for some the cost per student will rise from £50 to £70 a month. Will the Education Secretary explain what the Government are doing to protect families in Durham from that increased and unexpected cost, and will he meet me before the summer holidays to discuss school transport?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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If the hon. Lady would be kind enough to send in more details of the issue she has raised, I would be very happy to organise for the Minister for School Standards to meet her to discuss in finer detail some of her concerns, some of the challenges that the local authority may be facing and what needs to be done by Durham County Council.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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With reference to the report published by Ofsted on 10 June 2021 entitled “Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges”, what steps his Department is taking to support LGBT+ pupils to report to teachers incidences of harmful sexual behaviour in school.

Vicky Ford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Vicky Ford)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Schools are under a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children and must have regard to keeping children safe in education. The guidance is clear that, while anyone can be a victim of abuse, schools should recognise that some groups, including LGBTQ+ pupils, are potentially more at risk.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for her answer, but she will know that the Ofsted report identified a huge discrepancy between the knowledge of teachers of incidents that are harmful to young LGBT children and the actual experience of it, so what steps can the Department take to train teachers to recognise how harmful sexual behaviour actually affects LGBT young people?

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
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The Government are committed to working with school leaders, governors and teachers to improve how they can better recognise the effects of sexual harassment and abuse, and better support victims. We expect the issues raised by LGBTQ+ pupils to be addressed as part of this really important work.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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If he will take steps to ensure that pupils who opt out of GCSE geography receive education on climate change.

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
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It is vital that pupils are taught about climate change, which is why related topics are included throughout the geography and science curriculums from five to 14 and five to 16, respectively. That is mandatory in state-maintained schools. Academies must offer a broad and balanced curriculum, as exemplified by the national curriculum.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson
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I hope the Secretary of State will join me in welcoming my hon. Friend the new Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green) to the Chamber today. I am sure he will agree that it is critical that children and young people learn about the scientific causes and consequences of climate change, and that they are equipped for the future in terms of practical action and the impact on jobs and future careers. With fewer than 50% of GSCE pupils taking geography, what consideration has he given to creating a standalone subject that properly prepares and empowers our young people to engage with climate change?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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Of course I join the hon. Lady—and, I am sure, all Members—in welcoming a new Member to the House. It is a shame that the few Liberal Democrat MPs who are left could not be bothered to stay for Education questions. Perhaps that shows the priority that the Liberals put on education, compared with Conservative Members and Labour Members as well. It is nice that there is a lone voice on behalf of Liberal England.

It is incredibly important that climate change is taught, and it is vital that it is a key part of the geography curriculum. It is also an incredibly important part of the science curriculum. We know that science is critical to understanding climate change, and all Members of the House are deeply indebted to the former Member for Finchley, and her amazing work in highlighting global climate change in the 1980s, when she was Prime Minister. She was not just speaking to the United Kingdom; she was speaking to the globe. I am sure many Members, including Opposition Members, recognise the amazing work she did in ensuring that we understand climate change and can act on that.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)
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What steps he is taking to tackle the increase in delayed speech among reception age children from disadvantaged backgrounds as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Vicky Ford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Vicky Ford)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government’s education recovery plan includes £17 million for the Nuffield early language intervention. That excellent evidence-based programme targets reception-age children who need extra support for their language development. It is proven to help children make around three months of additional progress. So far, 40% of primary schools in England have signed up, helping 60,000 children in this academic year.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the pandemic, 50% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds suffered a speech delay at school entry, and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has found that since the pandemic children of all ages from disadvantaged backgrounds have particularly suffered from the withdrawal of speech and language support. Will the Minister ensure that extra resources are provided for children of all ages from disadvantaged areas, with both digital and in-person support, so that their life chances are empowered not impaired, and that those in greatest need get greater support? Will she meet me and the royal college to discuss that?

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In England, schools can use their recovery funding to purchase additional therapies such as speech and language therapies, and I have seen examples of where that has already happened. The funding we have given for recovery has included Barnett consequentials and money going to Wales, and I encourage the Welsh Government to look at the Nuffield early language initiative. Nearly a quarter of a million children have already been screened for it, and it is having real benefits in England. I encourage taking a look at it across the border, as it is a brilliant way to help children.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK-EU Cooperation and Trade Agreement on (a) higher and (b) further education.

Michelle Donelan Portrait The Minister for Universities (Michelle Donelan)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The trade and co-operation agreement is based on co-operation between sovereign equals, centred on free trade and inspired by our shared history and values. The Department discussed the agreement with sector representatives and devolved Administrations, and we will continue to do so through bodies such as the Education Sector Advisory Group.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thousands of EU academics have already left the UK for the EU, driven away by the UK Government’s hostile environment, the Government’s reckless cuts to funding and in-progress projects, and Brexit uncertainty, with up to 70% more per year leaving for work or study in the EU than at any time before the Brexit referendum. How will the Minister’s Government prevent an even greater brain drain to the EU from UK universities?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member touched on a number of points, including workforce and talent within the UK in our universities. Through the introduction of the new skilled worker and global talent route, the UK is actually giving top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including researchers, scientists and academics to join our world-leading higher education sector. The global talent route ensures that highly skilled individuals, including scientists and researchers, can come to the UK and make an important contribution.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the allocation of Government funding to academic institutions for research.

Michelle Donelan Portrait The Minister for Universities (Michelle Donelan)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government are investing £14.9 billion on research and development in 2021-22, the highest level for four decades. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy provides funding for academic researchers through UK Research and Innovation and the national academies, and published detailed allocations in May. I will continue to work closely with the Minister with responsibility for science, research and innovation, the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway).

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UKRI’s global challenges research fund was set up to promote international collaboration on global issues, including climate change and health. However, due to the reduction in overseas aid, the funding promised in 2019 has now been cut in half, causing projects to be cancelled and researchers in low-income countries to be made redundant. In many cases, the last two years of research will be wasted. How will the Minister get academics to commit time and energy in the future, when they cannot trust this Government to honour their commitments?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The changes to the level of official development assistance quality-related funding made available to universities has been applied equally across the four nations of the Union, as the hon. Member will know. The Government’s research ODA spend includes the global challenges research fund, which has been allocated in line with the thematic, rather than geographic, priorities of the strategic framework for UK ODA, as outlined by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, while prioritising high-value-for-money projects and existing legal commitments. I will be delighted to meet the hon. Member along with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary responsibility for science, innovation and research to discuss this matter further.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps his Department is taking to support autistic or neurodiverse pupils.

Vicky Ford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Vicky Ford)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Alongside the £8 billion high needs budget, we fund the Autism Education Trust, which develops autism awareness training for education staff. Over the past decade, over 300,000 staff have been trained. We have also worked with the Department of Health and Social Care to include children in the autism strategy, which will be published shortly.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre is a school in South Bank which provides autistic and neurodiverse young people from across Redcar and Cleveland with the support they need in their education. It is a great example how local authorities, working in partnership with specialist charities such as the North East Autism Society, can provide this type of enhanced support closer to home. Will the Minister come to Redcar and Cleveland to meet me and the North East Autism Society to see how it can expand its current support and replicate it elsewhere?

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is a great champion for Redcar and I would certainly be very happy to visit schools in his constituency with him. I just want to take a moment to thank staff and students in schools and special schools all across the country, and to say this to children: “We know it has been such a difficult time, but children please do hold your heads up high. You have done so much. Be proud of all you have achieved during this pandemic.”

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of apprenticeships.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps his Department is taking to increase the number of apprenticeships.

Gillian Keegan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Gillian Keegan)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to develop the skills they need to build back better, especially as we recover from the pandemic. We have increased the incentive payment to £3,000 for employers hiring a new apprentice. As of 4 May, 52,719 incentive payments had been claimed. We are also making apprenticeships more flexible, encouraging front-loaded and accelerated training, and introducing new flexi-job apprenticeships. We are also making it easier for levy payers to transfer funds to support new apprenticeships within small and medium-sized enterprises and within their local areas.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her answer. Our world-class maritime businesses in Falmouth inform me that there is a shortage of qualified maritime and marine engineers. Will she work with me to see how we can best try to accelerate the hiring and training of such apprentices in this important sector so that marine industries such as the one here in Falmouth and across the UK can thrive and prosper?

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would be delighted to work with my hon. Friend on such an important industry for her area. I am also delighted to say that there are over 480 apprenticeship standards approved for delivery that can provide strong support to the marine industry. These include a level 2 apprenticeship in maritime, mechanical and electrical engineering, a level 4 apprenticeship as a maritime operations officer and a level 6 degree apprenticeship as a maritime surveyor, all of which have been supported by expert trailblazers, including the Royal Navy, P&O Ferries and others. It is my hope that we will be able to use these standards and work together to build on the more than 7,000 apprenticeship starts in Truro and Falmouth since May 2010.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for visiting Stoke-on-Trent College last week with my neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent MPs. Only 22.5% of people in Stoke-on-Trent have an NVQ—national vocational qualification—at level 4 or above, so does she agree that increasing the uptake of apprenticeships in Stoke-on-Trent is a key aspect of improving skill levels, supporting local industries and ensuring that more people can access the better-paid employment opportunities that we want to see?

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and that is why I was really delighted to join him and our colleagues—our other Stoke MPs—to visit Stoke-on-Trent College. It was great that we were able to meet students who are on a wide variety of pathways and see the fantastic facilities that our investment has enabled at this brilliant college. There have been nearly 30,000 apprenticeship starts in the Stoke-on-Trent area since May 2010. I encourage learners and employers to take advantage of the support, including the incentive payment of £3,000, and I am sure that he will welcome the establishment of a new Home Office centre that will create more than 500 new roles over five years, with an apprenticeship-first policy for hiring at the entry grades. I agree that they are absolutely vital to the development and economic recovery in Stoke-on-Trent and beyond.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid the Minister just sounds like she is in denial. Between August and January, under-19 apprenticeship starts were 41% lower than they were in 2018-19. We keep telling the Government that their apprenticeship incentives are inadequate, and there has been widespread support for Labour’s apprenticeship wage subsidy proposal. The Conservative Chair of the Education Committee, the right hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), has joined those calling for the Government to subsidise the wages of young apprentices and help to tackle this crisis of opportunity. Why will the Minister not work with us and Members right across the House to introduce Labour’s apprenticeship wage subsidy proposal?

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not in denial. Perhaps he is forgetting the kickstart scheme, which also subsidises wages for six months for young people. That scheme is live and is going on for the rest of this year. In addition, it may have escaped his notice, perhaps, that many of the sectors have been in lockdown until relatively recently. If we look at apprenticeship starts, we notice that there is an acceleration in those using the incentive payments to get back to work. Of course, the £3,000 that has been provided can be used in any way that the employer wants to use it, including to subsidise wages. So there is a lot of support and I expect that the numbers will continue to increase.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank everyone in the education sector for their dedication throughout the pandemic. Last week, I had the pleasure of watching the Second Reading of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill in the other place. The Bill will legislate for landmark reforms first set out in the skills for jobs White Paper to help to transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, helping us to build back better as we come out of the pandemic.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On Friday, I found out about the Diana Award anti-bullying strategy when I visited Gusford Primary School and I had the pleasure of meeting Harrison, a year 5 pupil, and Katie, a year 4 pupil. They are the two anti-bullying ambassadors for Gusford primary. Single-handedly, the two of them passionately seem to be on the way to stamping out bullying in the whole school and have actually required very little assistance from the teachers. The Diana Award, I understand, is currently awaiting funding and has put in an application to the Department for Education. Will my right hon. Friend confirm here today his commitment to supporting all the work they are doing to tackle and prevent bullying?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It sounds as if amazing work is going on at Gusford Primary School. That has been underpinned by the £3.5 million in funding available to charities and organisations such as the Diana Award. A number of organisations are currently bidding. I am afraid that I am not in a position to confirm which have been successful, but I understand that the Diana Award is one of those that has been bidding for the next tranche of funding.

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, the Early Years Alliance revealed secret Government documents that exposed that Ministers have been knowingly underfunding childcare, childminders and nurseries for years now, knowing full well that that would mean increased childcare costs for parents and lower-quality early education. Bearing in mind that in this year alone there has been a net loss of 2,500 childcare facilities in England, will the Minister apologise for covering this up? Will she explain to the House how she plans to rectify the very serious problem of underfunding in early education?

Vicky Ford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Vicky Ford)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do wish sometimes that my opposite number would stop scaremongering. We have put unprecedented investment in childcare over the past decade: more than £3.5 billion in each of the past three years. There are always a number of reasons why providers come and go from the register, including mergers and acquisitions. The key thing is whether or not there are sufficient places for children. We monitor the market very closely, and we are continuing to see that there are not a significant number of parents who are unable to secure a childcare place this term or since early years sectors reopened in June.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Could the Secretary of State update the House on progress on changing A-levels to enable students to apply with known grades rather than predicted grades?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The consultation closed on 13 May and we are looking at the response very closely. We really want to bring post-qualification admissions forward as rapidly as possible. We would like to do so without legislation and in co-operation with the sector, but if we are not able to have that co-operation, we will drive this forward. All the evidence, from the Sutton Trust and from so many others, is clear that PQA helps children from the most disadvantaged families more than any others. That is why we will make it happen.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given that the National Fire Chiefs Council, Zurich Municipal and many other stakeholders across the UK have repeatedly called for Ministers to bring England in line with Scotland and Wales, where sprinklers are compulsory, will the Secretary of State explain under what rationale the Department for Education has chosen to pursue a programme of installing sprinklers only in new schools over 11 metres tall?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We always look at the latest evidence and take the very best guidance. We are very proud of our building programme in schools, in new build and refurbishments, but we always look very closely. As the hon. Lady will be aware, there is some debate as to whether deluge systems or mist systems are best, but we are always guided by the best advice and the best evidence in our school building programme.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our programme of promoting academies and enabling schools and colleges to become academies has been outstandingly successful and very popular. However, there is one section that has not been able to convert: Catholic sixth-form colleges. Will my right hon. Friend enable an amendment to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill to provide an opportunity for Catholic sixth-form colleges to academise with the legal protections that they need?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am aware of how important this is. We look at all legislative opportunities to see how this can best be done, and we are committed at the earliest opportunity to making it happen. We want to see Catholic sixth-forms in a position to be able to academise, because we have seen the benefits that that can bring to so many schools. I will happily work with my hon. Friend and others to ensure that it happens at the earliest moment.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State ensure that, instead of experiencing disruption to a third academic year, universities are able to determine their own return of students in September this year? The University of York and York St John University have advanced plans in place and they do not want to see further delays, including staggered starts. Can they now also have the ability to allow international students to quarantine at their local university?

Michelle Donelan Portrait The Minister for Universities (Michelle Donelan)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have every expectation that by the autumn term we will be able to move forward beyond step 4, meaning that there will be no further restrictions on the provision of in-person teaching and learning. During the pandemic, many providers have developed a digital offering and, as autonomous institutions, they might choose to retain elements of that approach, as well as undertaking risk assessments, but our expectation is clear that universities should maintain the quality, quantity and accessibility of provision. In terms of international students, we have been one of the world’s leaders in our visa concessions and flexibilities. I shall continue to work closely with the Home Office and the Department of Health to ensure that the best interests of students are always maintained, as well as public health.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Can the Secretary of State say what particular support is being made available for pupils with dyslexia to help them to catch up following the disruptions caused by the covid-19 pandemic?

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The £3 billion education recovery interventions are largely targeted towards those children who need the most help. The catch-up and recovery premiums can be used flexibly by schools to support pupils with special educational needs, including those with dyslexia.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Develop is part of a small not-for-profit organisation in Bedford providing personalised teaching and training to local learners. Many of its 31 students have special educational needs and disabilities and cannot attend a mainstream college, so can the Secretary of State explain why this incredible centre’s Education and Skills Funding Agency funding will be stopped in July and how it is to support its devastated students and families?

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have, of course, increased our high needs budget by nearly a quarter over the past two years and put additional funding, through the recovery and catch-up programmes, towards special needs, supporting those children who need to be in special schools and not mainstream schools, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Member and look at the specific case that he has raised.

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Kash Singh came to the United Kingdom aged seven, unable to speak English. He became a popular police inspector in Bradford, and on his retirement he set up OBON—One Britain One Nation—which aims to bring communities, particularly schoolchildren, together under the common cause of being proud of being British and taking pride in British values. OBON Day is on Friday. Will the Secretary of State thank Kash Singh for all his work in this regard, and will he encourage all schools to take part in OBON Day on Friday?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would very much like to thank Kash Singh for the work he has done on this amazing project, and it is incredibly important that schools take part in it. We have already asked schools to participate, and I am happy to reiterate the endorsement of the project from the Dispatch Box and to encourage them to play their part in it.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

How confident is the Secretary of State that children and young people in the care of local authorities are being protected from grooming gangs, and what discussions has he had with the Home Secretary about what more needs to be done to protect this group of young people?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have regular discussions with the Home Secretary and across Government on this issue. It is vital that everything is done to address this. I know that this is something that is felt on both sides of the House. We will continue to put in all the resources and all the effort required to tackle this vital issue.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the digital age, it is more important than ever that school and college courses reflect the skills needed by employers in the future. Will my hon. Friend outline the steps she and the Department are taking to bring forward new technical qualifications that will ensure that students from Aylesbury, especially at the university technical college and the further education college, are well equipped to meet the demands of the modern economy?

Gillian Keegan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Gillian Keegan)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right: technical skills and education are vital to our modern economy, and never have we seen that more clearly than during the pandemic. The Conservative Government are encouraging more students into STEM education at all stages, from primary to higher education. We are proud to have rolled out multiple programmes to increase support for and uptake of STEM subjects, including through the National Centre for Computing Education. We are also investing £138 million to fund the roll-out of skills bootcamps across the country and free courses for jobs, through which adults can study for qualifications such as a diploma in networking and cyber-security or a certificate in systems infrastructure. I am delighted that, from September, Buckinghamshire College Group will offer our new employer-designed digital T-level.

Rosie Cooper Portrait Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Secretary of State share my concern about the impact of the last year on teacher retention? What plans does he have to mitigate this and to tempt more new entrants to the teaching profession? Is he considering more grant funding for those who are planning to enter the profession? Will he take some positive steps?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We continue to support recruitment to the teaching profession with an extensive bursary scheme to incentivise people to take up teaching, especially in areas with the greatest shortage. We remain committed to our £30,000 starting salary for teachers, which we recognise is an incredibly compelling offer for many people. Mr Speaker, you will be pleased to hear that last year a record number of people chose to enter the teaching profession, and we expect similar results this year.

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for the recently announced multimillion-pound rebuild of Lytham St Annes High School, but looking to the present, what steps is the Department taking to help school leavers this summer, as they transition into work or higher education following severe disruption to their final two academic years?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who campaigned hard to get the funding to deliver the rebuilding of Lytham St Annes High School for his constituents. We will continue to work with all schools throughout the remainder of this academic year to ensure that there is as much support as possible for students, whether through the recovery premium that schools have been receiving or money made available for summer schools, so that schools can put on additional activities. The further education sector has also been supported to support its pupils, so they can get on and get the best opportunities.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard  Thomson  (Gordon)  (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Association of Colleges has accused the UK Government of creating an “education versus work” divide by requiring universal credit claimants to prioritise looking for work over training. How exactly do the Government expect disadvantaged universal credit claimants to train and improve their skills if their financial support is linked to prioritising work over training opportunities?

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will update the hon. Gentleman. We have been working with the Department for Work and Pensions to extend to 12 weeks the time that those who are claiming universal credit can undertake college courses. Anyone who wants to attend one of the boot camps we are rolling out across the country can complete the programme, with up to 16 weeks in total.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Department of Health and Social Care is closing the asymptomatic testing and lateral flow testing facilities at the University of Hull on 31 July, despite the fact that the university remains open during the summer for staff, postgraduates, international students and students who cannot return home, despite the fact that not all students have been double vaccinated, and despite the fact that the number of cases is rising. Will the Minister for Universities intervene urgently and speak to her colleagues at the DHSC to keep testing open at the University of Hull?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the hon. Member will know, we have worked very closely with the Department of Health and Social Care throughout the pandemic, and the testing offer for students continues to be as accessible as possible. In addition, students can utilise the universal testing offer. I will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care in regard to summer provision as well as autumn provision, and I am happy to meet her to discuss this further.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ministers failed to secure over 90% of the funding called for by Kevan Collins for the catch-up fund, and we have just discovered that 100,000 vulnerable students and disadvantaged students will miss out on the pupil premium because Ministers have failed to secure the funding. Over the weekend, when the Chancellor was asked, he gave the reason why: because he cannot fund every cause that

“comes knocking on my door.”

Do students in this country not deserve a set of Ministers with the skill and determination to get through the front door of the Treasury and come out with the investment that our schools, students and teachers need?

Nick Gibb Portrait The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have announced a £1.4 billion education recovery package, which is the third announced in the last 12 months, coming on top of £1 billion announced in June 2020 and £700 million announced in February last year. That £1.4 billion will provide an extra £1 billion for tutoring, which will provide up to 100 million hours of tutoring. That is 6 million 15-hour courses for five to 16-year-olds and 2 million 15-hour courses for 16 to 19-year-olds. This is a huge package. We are now reviewing the time aspect of the recommendations made by Sir Kevan, and that will report into the spending review later this year.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. A few moments ago, the Secretary of State—I am sure inadvertently—in answer to me said that he and the Prime Minister had a plan to roll out tutoring to 6 million children across the country. That is an error that was also made last week by the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions. As I am sure the Secretary of State will wish to make clear to the House, the correct figure is 6 million tutoring sessions. That is slightly different.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Secretary of State want to come back?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. To be absolutely clear, we aim to roll out tutoring for 6 million pupils across the country.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Right. That has gone on the record.

I now suspend the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements for the next business to be made.

15:37
Sitting suspended.

End-to-end Rape Review

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I call the Lord Chancellor, I wish to remind Members that the House’s sub judice resolution means that reference should not be made to any case in which proceedings are active in the United Kingdom courts.

15:40
Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to make a statement. I want to put on record my thanks to the Opposition Chief Whip, too, for allowing some valuable Opposition day time.

I would like to make a statement on the Government’s end-to-end rape review report on findings and actions. Rape and sexual assault are some of the most horrific offences dealt with by our criminal justice system. They can leave devastating effects on victims for life. While the majority of victims of rape are women, this crime can have a devastating effect on male victims as well. Over the last five years, we have seen an alarming decline in the number of police referrals, charges, prosecutions and convictions for these sorts of crimes—a trend that the Government are determined to reverse with urgency. I want to pay tribute to the bravery of victims and to commend their courage in coming forward to report these crimes. It is crucial that the system gives all victims the reassurance that they will be believed and that they will receive the right support, right from the moment they report their crime through to the conclusion of their case and beyond.

In March 2019, the national criminal justice board commissioned the first ever end-to-end review of how the criminal justice system handles rape cases. The rape review report and action plan outlines how we will act on its findings to deliver much needed improvements, building confidence in the system and encouraging more victims to come forward. That will enable cases that are better prepared from the start, more prosecutions of rapes, greater encouragement of early guilty pleas, and fair and timely trials. This has been a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Attorney General’s Office—I am grateful to the Solicitor General for being here today—the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, which is something that we believe will be crucial to its long-term success. Alongside the action plan, a Government social research report outlining the underlying primary research in detail is also being published. I have laid that report before the House.[Official Report, 5 July 2021, Vol. 698, c. 8MC.]

Our action plan sets out a robust and ambitious programme of work to improve the way in which the criminal justice system responds to rape at every stage in the process, so that victims are better supported to get the justice they deserve and so that all our constituents can have confidence that perpetrators of these sickening crimes will be rightly punished. As the House will know, this has been a priority area for Government for some time, and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the work already done, alongside the new actions that we are committed to delivering in the implementation of the review.

We appreciate that this is not the first piece of work in this area of criminal justice, and that both victims and stakeholder groups want change to happen as quickly as possible. The Government could not agree more, which is why the Minister for Crime and Policing will be personally pushing this work forward, and the Government will publish updates every six months detailing progress to ensure clear accountability. That will include scorecards monitoring progress against key metrics, including timeliness and victim engagement in each part of the system, and implementation of the action plan. Our ambition is for the volume of cases referred by the police for charging decisions and reaching court to return to 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament.

One of the key themes of the review is how we can create the conditions that will enable effective joint working between the police and CPS. It launched its joint action plan in January this year. That will enable both the police and CPS to work hand in glove to support rape victims and to secure convictions. In the implementation phase of the review, we plan to introduce joint decision-making guidance for CPS and police investigation teams that will be implemented as part of a necessary culture change. We will also build on the shared learning and development in the form of training and guidance around trauma, to develop understanding of its effect on victims right across the system. In the next 24 months, we will have a framework for a new operating model that can be adopted by forces nationally.

A key plank of our work to transform the way in which cases are dealt with is the pathfinder programme known as Operation Soteria, which is being launched to drive systemic and sustainable transformation in how the police and CPS handle investigations into rape and sexual offences. I am pleased to say that we have already begun to transform the support provided to victims by publishing a revised victims code, which sets out 12 clearly defined rights. We have invested record amounts in support over the last 18 months, including spending more than £70 million on rape and domestic abuse services in 2020-21 and £27 million on the expansion of the independent sexual violence adviser service—the ISVA service.

I accept that more needs to be done to reform support services to meet current and rising demand, and ISVAs play a crucial role. Research suggests that their involvement in the criminal justice system can make a victim 49% more likely to stay engaged and see their complaint through to its conclusions. With that in mind, we will shortly consult on a statutory underpinning for the ISVA role as part of the forthcoming victims Bill consultation. The police and CPS will work together to introduce minimum standards on how to communicate with ISVAs after a complaint is made, throughout the investigation process, through charging decisions and through court proceedings themselves. This will be done through a national framework to ensure that standards improve right across the country.

We are also committed to ensuring that no victim is left without a means of communicating through an extremely traumatic period in their life, which is why we are working to increase the capacity of the frontline technology used to examine digital devices. We will work with the mobile phone technology industry to support police efforts to provide swap-out phones for victims to use when their own devices are unavailable. Our ambition is that no victim will be left without a phone for more than 24 hours.

We recognise that the court experience can be particularly distressing. Last year, we rolled out section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 to help support children and vulnerable adult victims and witnesses to give their evidence and be cross-examined sensitively. We are already piloting the same arrangements for intimidated witnesses and victims in three locations, and plan to increase that pilot to three additional courts. Subject to that evaluation, we aim to commence full roll-out to all Crown courts for this group, and will consider whether any further legislative change is needed. We also plan to test the use of section 28 in the youth court.

We will continue to explore how we can increase the use of special measures in rape trials, and will develop a best practice framework for rape and sexual violence cases during court proceedings. Additionally, we have asked the Law Commission to explore the use of rape myths and evidence about victim credibility at court to see whether there are changes we can make there to improve the experience for victims and give them the opportunity to present their best evidence. In addition, the CPS has updated its legal guidance to address rape myths and stereotypes.

We will go further than the work outlined in the review; later this year, we will publish a new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, and we will consult on the new victims Bill. I am sure that the whole House will join me in acknowledging the many people and organisations who are working tirelessly to improve the way in which these cases are handled. I thank the organisations in this field. Their expertise, research and challenge is invaluable. I am incredibly grateful to Emily Hunt in particular, who has been working as an expert adviser on the rape review, and ensured that the voice of victims was heard loud and clear as the Government considered their approach.

I reassure the House that if the proposed actions do not yield sufficient change in the timescales that we have set out, the Government are prepared to look at more fundamental changes to the criminal justice system, including measures to strengthen accountability and governance more widely. The review represents just the beginning of this work. We must continue to challenge the entire system to deliver urgent and sustained change. We owe that to every victim of these terrible crimes. Every part of the system can and must do better; now is the time for it to deliver. I commend this statement to the House.

15:49
David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)
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Last week, the Secretary of State took the bold step of saying that he was “sorry” and “deeply ashamed” for how he and his Government had failed rape victims. “Sorry” is a word that we do not hear often in this House, and we certainly do not hear it enough. It is, frankly, a difficult word for politicians to say, but when a politician says sorry, it means they are taking responsibility and expressing regret for mistakes that have caused large swathes of the public to suffer.

The Secretary of State was right to apologise, but his apology has been made meaningless by his attempt to avoid taking responsibility over the weekend. Under his watch, the conviction and prosecution rates for rapists have fallen to a record low. In the year 2016-17, there were 41,616 rapes recorded in England and Wales—a third less than currently—and there were 5,090 prosecutions and 2,991 convictions. In 2019-20, the most recent year for which we have available data, the police recorded 55,130 rapes but there were only 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions. Rape convictions and prosecutions more than halved in just a few years, even despite the number of recorded rapes having rocketed upwards.

It is impossible to separate those appalling statistics from the decade of Conservative cuts that have accompanied them. Funding for the Ministry of Justice has fallen by 25% since 2010. When asked by the BBC whether the removal of funding for legal services was linked to the downward trends, the Secretary of State admitted that that is “self-evidently the case.” Ten years of cuts to the courts, legal aid, police and the Crown Prosecution Service have created an environment in which victims are denied justice and criminals are let off the hook. The Lord Chancellor swore an oath

“to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts”;

clearly, he has failed.

After we have waited two years for the review to be published, its recommendations do not go far enough. Despite the Secretary of State’s having admitted that his funding cuts helped to cause the crisis, almost no new funding at all is announced in the review. The review lumps in spending on domestic violence and rape as a headline to misrepresent the truth; the reality is that the vast majority of the funding for refuge accommodation—which is of course vital—has nothing to do with increasing rape prosecutions or convictions. The only mention of new funding is the £4 million over two years for independent sexual violence advisers. That equates to £15 per rape victim for a year. Does the Secretary of State really think that is enough funding to address the failings that the report sets out?

The review mentions the pre-recording of evidence for intimidated victims, which is a vital reform, but why are the Government re-piloting the scheme for a further two years when they have piloted it twice already? Does the Secretary of State doubt that the current two-to-three-year waiting list to get a rape case to court is leading to many dropping out? Why are the Government not funding specialist units for rape cases throughout the country? The pilot in Avon and Somerset has been successful, but the Government are going to roll it out for only one year, among just four more police forces—more piecemeal pilots and nowhere near enough funding and long-term commitment to make any real impact. We know the problems, we have the answers and the technology is in place—what is the hold-up?

As the Opposition spokesman, it is my job to hold the Secretary of State to account. For his apology to have meaning, it needs accountability alongside it. In their rape review, the Government outline their commitment to return the volume of cases being referred by the police and charged by the Crown Prosecution Service and then going to court to at least

“2016 levels by the end of this Parliament.”

We in the Opposition said that by the end of this Parliament is not good enough. Rape victims cannot be forced to wait another three years for conviction and prosecution levels to return to 2016 levels. We demanded that the Secretary of State met the target within a year, but, bafflingly, his response was to describe such a target as “constitutionally illiterate”. We know that this failure affects several Departments. We know that the Crown Prosecution Service is independent, with oversight by the Attorney General’s office. We know that the police are overseen by the Home Office. But we also know that the health of the justice system as a whole has a huge impact on the likelihood of a victim pressing charges, the police charging a suspect and a conviction being secured. Victims are facing delays because of the Justice Department’s cuts to the courts and legal aid, and it is because of those delays that 44% of rape victims are pulling out of the justice system altogether.

In describing such a target as constitutionally illiterate, the Secretary of State suggested that the record low prosecution and conviction rates for rapes were out of his hands. That runs counter to his previous apology in which he took responsibility for them. Does he, or does he not, take responsibility for this Government’s hollowing out of the justice system? If not, does he intend to take his apology back? Do the Government intend to meet their target of returning the number of rapists who face justice to 2016 levels, or have they done a U-turn and scrapped that target?

The Secretary of State cannot show disdain for the constitution whenever it suits him and then blame the constitution when he is trying to defend his own failings. Enough is enough. Will he reverse these failures within a year, or will he resign?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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This is a very, very important subject and it is quite right that we are having this statement, but there are other Members besides those on the Front Benches whom I need to hear from. It is important to all colleagues to get on the record, so please, whether we are talking about the Minister or the shadow Minister, we must stick to the time that the House has agreed to. It is not what I have agreed to, but what the House and Members have signed up to. Please, let us ensure that everybody gets a fair chance.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am mindful of your stricture, Mr Speaker.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman very firmly about what I said? I rightly took responsibility and apologised for the overall failure that has led us to this situation. I do that as somebody who is politically responsible; I accept that without any qualification. I accept as well that resources are a matter for the Government, and I explained that, in the context of what we were left with, decisions were made back in 2010 that did indeed result in reductions. None the less, he will know as well that the issue with regard to the prosecution of rapes is not just about resources. It is about culture. It is about the way in which victims have, for far too long, been the focus of all attention. I know he agrees that that is inappropriate and that it is time for a much more perpetrator-focused approach.

When we calmly look at the figures for rape prosecutions over the past 10 or 15 years, we will see an encouraging rise from 2010 to about the middle of the decade, then a sustained improvement until about 2017-18, and then this very concerning decline that I have rightly acknowledged. That in itself tells us that something has happened here with regard to the way in which these cases are approached, and that has caused huge concern. There was a judicial review case about it that we are familiar with, which was hotly disputed between the Crown Prosecution Service and the sector, and, rightly, we waited for that to be concluded before we published this review. I say again to him what I said yesterday, which is that to in any way suggest that an increase in prosecutions and the bringing of cases should be linked to the fate or otherwise of a politician is constitutionally illiterate, dangerous, and the sort of approach that could lead to allegations of improper pressure being put on independent prosecutors.

I wonder whether, before he issued his public pronouncement, the right hon. Gentleman cleared it with his own boss. I can imagine the scene: me, as Lord Chancellor, speaking to the Director of Public Prosecutions in a way that would have crossed the line with regard to his prosecutorial independence; of course, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) was the DPP, and I am pretty sure about the answer that I would have got from him. I think that the silence of the Leader of the Opposition on this matter speaks volumes.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) [V]
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This is a very important statement, and the Lord Chancellor knows that when he makes a bid for further funding for the justice system, there is compelling evidence from the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions to support that. In relation to the current issue, does he agree that one of the most striking figures is that of 52,000 cases reported as rapes or serious sexual offences, only 2,700 found their way to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has a high percentage of then charging? Does he agree that it is critical that the evidence file is available to the Crown Prosecution Service and that victims and complainants are treated sensitively? Can we find out more about what happened to the other 50,000 that never even made it to the stage of being considered by the CPS?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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My hon. Friend the Chair of the Justice Committee is right to point out the significant difference between the number of complaints that are made and the number of cases that reach their way to court. I have long harboured deep concerns about those early stages in the investigative process when a complainant or a victim comes forward with a complaint and then is made to make some very difficult choices, most notably about handing over a mobile phone. A young woman’s life will be on that phone. What replacement is she going to have, and how is she going to manage without such an important device? Very often that sort of Manichean choice is given, which is wholly wrong. That is why I think at the early stages of the investigation we need to do more to support victims, which is why I regard the investment in ISVAs as key to making sure that we can make a difference and reduce that cliff edge. I want to consult further on other aspects of support that we can give victims at the earliest stage to make sure that, when it comes to disclosure, the rights of victims are protected just as much as the rights of the accused.

Harriet Harman Portrait Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab)
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I welcome the fact that the Justice Secretary has acknowledged the woeful failure of the justice system to protect women and girls from the abhorrent crime of rape. Will he recognise that one of the things that deters victims from supporting a prosecution is that, when it comes to trial, it is they who are put in the dock by having their sexual history being dragged out and being made the focus of the trial, instead of the focus being on the defendant and what he actually did? Will he address this by backing the new clauses that have been put forward on a cross-party basis to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will ensure that the defendants’ previous sexual history is only ever brought up in court when there has been a previous application to the judge, who has ruled that it is relevant to the particular issue on trial?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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May I pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Lady for her tireless work in this area? Indeed, she and I have regular dialogue about these issues and have done in the past. I will say several things in response. First, it is vital that existing protections are properly policed and used by the courts when it comes to restrictions on wholly inappropriate cross-examination. I have in particular asked the Law Commission to look at the whole issue about the trial process, and the rape myth issue that is still a real concern for many people who end up taking part in this process. But I will say this to her: I think it begins much earlier. I think the undue focus on the victim begins right from the initial investigation, and I think that that is wrong. I think that the proper emphasis in this report is about looking at the person who is alleged to have done it, rather than constantly focusing, as she rightly says, on irrelevant previous sexual matters that have nothing to do with the case and are an unwarranted intrusion into the private life of victims.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
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It is absolutely vital that there is a focus on offender behaviour rather than victim credibility, which is and will have been a significant factor as to why victims fear coming forward. The steps being taken on ensuring victims and witnesses can pre-record video evidence is welcome, but what will be done to extend this to all the courts so that all victims and witnesses can have access to this?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I thank my hon. Friend, and I say this: we have already rolled out the section 28 provisions to cover intimidated witnesses, many of whom will of course themselves have been the victims of sexual offences. We are going further: we are working very hard with the judiciary to pilot more use of the pre-recorded cross-examination technology in the case of intimidated witnesses. I have indicated that I will be prepared to legislate, if necessary, to ensure that we can fulfil the scale of my ambition, but I have to work closely with the judiciary to ensure that the operational realities—listing pressures and the sheer way in which we can accommodate these hearings—are fully taken into account as well.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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It is of course vital that the charging and prosecution of rape cases improves dramatically, so that rapists are put in prison and survivors get justice, but we also need to stop rape and other forms of violence against women and girls happening in the first place, and that requires a cultural change across our society—all men and boys must understand that violence, harassment and abuse of women and girls is unacceptable. Does the Secretary of State agree that that cultural change must include making misogyny a hate crime, so that it is treated as severely as crimes motivated by racial or religious hatred, as well as better age-appropriate relationships and sex education in schools?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who makes some extremely relevant points and gets to the heart of the issue when it comes to the need to reduce the number of victims in the first place. I was very glad to hear her reference to the curriculum. A lot of work has been done to expand the curriculum on sex education and healthy relationships, and I pay tribute to the work not only of teachers, but of third sector groups that are campaigning actively to improve the quality of that provision. She will be glad to know that the violence against women and girls strategy, which was reopened in the wake of the appalling Sarah Everard killing, has received hundreds of thousands of responses. That is going to be the heart of the Government’s approach to prevention in order to achieve the goal that she and I share.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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Most rape victims feel unable to pursue their case because they feel disbelieved or judged. That was highlighted in the DSD and NBV v. Met police in 2018. The words of DSD, who was a victim of John Worboys, were:

“The police made me feel that I’d made it all up.”

It meant that Worboys was able to go on and carry out 100 more rapes of women. The other victim, NBV, said that the police

“asked me whether I’d describe myself as a young lady who would wear red nail polish and red lipstick. They asked me how often I would go out drinking…The way they behaved made me feel like anything that had happened to me was because I deserved it.”

The behaviour of the police in this case is a stark demonstration of why so many victims give up, yet the Metropolitan Police Commissioner rebutted the case, saying that it made their job too difficult. Frankly, unless the senior management of the Met and other large police forces show a willingness to change and learn from these cases, I am afraid we will need to look for new senior management.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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My right hon. Friend has very graphically illustrated some of the appalling experiences that many complainants and victims have undergone, and that is very much at the core of this review. We need to move away from the fixation with the credibility or believing of the victim and be much more about the perpetrator. If someone’s house is burgled, they do not expect to have a long trawl into their personal history and whether they had left an upstairs window unlocked or whether they had been drinking; it is about trying to find out who did it and who is responsible for the crime. It is that sort of approach that we need in rape and serious sexual offending.

Liz Saville Roberts Portrait Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC)
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The prevalence of rape myths and the lack of understanding of consent are known to act as barriers to justice for rape victims, and the Lord Chancellor rightly mentions the need for culture change. Will he therefore commit to bringing forward a strategy to provide training for the investigation of rape and alleged rape complaints, not only for the judiciary but for all jury members hearing such prosecutions?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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The right hon. Lady is quite right to ask about the trial process. I think she knows that my fundamental view about this is that things go wrong well before cases get to court and that the gap between complaint and prosecution is the real problem. However, I fully take on board what she says. She will note that in the review we have committed to look very carefully—in fact, I have already asked the Law Commission to do this—at, to coin a phrase, the rape myth issue, to see whether the existing provisions are strong enough. I know that rape myths are already being challenged daily in our courts, but we want to look at whether more can be done, particularly on issues such as the assumption that a rape victim has to have some injury or bruising, which is clearly a misconception. A lot more can be done to dispel that myth with more comprehensive, perhaps medical evidence from the prosecution, but I look forward to working with the right hon. Lady, as I always do, on these important issues.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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We know that all too often rape is committed by someone the victim knows. Because of that, investigations are incredibly hard to progress and are incredibly intrusive for the victim as well. Many victims disengage from the process, which means that we cannot move those cases forward. My right hon. and learned Friend’s announcement on ISVAs is therefore incredibly welcome, but improving criminal justice outcomes will be difficult without a substantial increase in their numbers and their capacity. What measures will he put in place to do that and improve outcomes for victims?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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My hon. Friend is right to focus on the need for early support for victims. As I said in my statement, the evidence is clear that an ISVA can reduce quite dramatically the number of victims who drop their case. The funding that I have put in place will allow us to recruit an extra 700 ISVAs, and we will go further than that in the victims’ law consultation by creating a statutory framework within which the work of ISVAs can be recognised and a national standard set, to ensure a consistent approach across England and Wales.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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The Home Affairs Committee will take evidence on the Government’s response from the Victims’ Commissioner, Emily Hunt, who advised the review, Imkaan and Rape Crisis on Wednesday. In 2014-15, I raised serious concerns with the Government about the drop in rape arrests at that time, which were already falling, and also warned about the hollowing out of specialist police teams and specialist prosecution teams working on rape, with fears for the consequences. However, none of us would have anticipated quite how far the numbers of prosecutions would then plummet. Can the Lord Chancellor tell me what assessment he has made of the number of specialist police officers and specialist prosecutors working in specialist rape teams and how it compares with five years ago, and if he has not, why not?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I take on board the proper points of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. I do not have specific figures to hand, but I can tell her that the RASSO—rape and serious sexual offence—units have been working for a number of years, from right back before 2014, bringing the police and the CPS together. I think a couple of things combined to make the figures so alarming. Most notably, there were a number of cases towards the end of 2017—such as the Liam Allan case, which we remember—where there was a genuine concern on the part of those representing accused people that somehow there was an issue with disclosure and that disclosure was not being done properly and thoroughly. That has long been a concern of mine, and I initiated work as Solicitor General to improve the way in which the disclosure was effected. I think that has had a chilling effect upon the approach to many cases.

I do not think it is right for me to apportion blame to anybody—far from it—but there is no doubt that we need to move away from the swinging pendulum—either the perception that it is swinging too far in the direction of too many cases being brought without evidence, or too far the other way, where only the safest cases are being brought and not enough is being done in respect of the volume.

I will take on board the right hon. Lady’s points about arrests. I think she will be encouraged by the review, which is a clarion call for a change in culture and in a way that the police in particular deal with the early stages of the investigation, but I will be happy to engage further with her on the detail.

Alberto Costa Portrait Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con) [V]
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Following the John Worboys outrage, the Secretary of State was given the authority, through the reconsideration mechanism, to request that the Parole Board reconsider certain decisions. He does not need to apply the same high threshold as in judicial review grounds of law to deem a case irrational. I welcome the future root-and-branch review of the Parole Board, but will the Secretary of State confirm that he will stand by his welcome numerous references to being firm on those who commit the most egregious sexual offences and murders against women, and will he refer the appalling decision to release double child rapist and killer Colin Pitchfork back to the Parole Board?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s assiduous campaigning on this most grave and disturbing case. The decision to reconsider is one that I am looking at very carefully. I am taking the fullest advice and will make an announcement within the 21-day period, which will be very soon.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
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The Justice Secretary’s statement referred to rolling out the pilot to all Crown courts, but we all know that it will be rolled out immediately to only nine Crown courts out of 70-odd. On the basis that during the two years that it took to publish the review, there were 100,000 reported rapes, at what point will he reach every Crown court in the country?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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The hon. Gentleman is right to press me on speed. I remind him that the decision to publish the rape review now was made in the light of a very important judicial review that was mounted by representatives of the sector; I listened to their representations and quite rightly waited for the outcome of that important case before publishing. However, I take the point. I am as anxious as he is to get on with things, but in respect of the section 28 roll-out I have to work hand in glove with the judiciary, who are operationally responsible: for example, a listing of a section 28 remote cross-examination will take some time in the court day. We have seen some really good examples in which it is working well, but I am listening very carefully to the judiciary’s observations about how it can be rolled out fully. I will push as hard as I can to achieve my personal ambition to see section 28 become the norm. Through the scorecard mechanism that we are introducing, we will be held accountable at regular intervals and he will have an opportunity to press me if he does not think that it is going fast enough.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend has said. As he recognises, what is done in the preparation of a case matters at least as much as what is said in court, so I urge him to link closely the work that the Government are already doing on disclosure with the work that he has described this afternoon. However, as he also knows, what is said in court matters too. To reinforce the point that the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) made, if we are to ensure that rape myths are properly challenged, will the Justice Secretary make sure that in his conversations with the judiciary he looks carefully at the judicial directions given to juries, and that if they need further refinement, they get it?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend, who as Attorney General worked very hard with me on the issue of disclosure and started the process that resulted in the revised Attorney General’s guidelines issued last year. He and I both know from our professional experience that a badly prepared and badly run case, in terms of disclosure, can be extremely destructive and frankly a miserable experience for those involved. He will be glad to know that we are not only pledging to ensure that victims’ phones are returned after no more than 24 hours, but working on new technology to ensure that analysis of data can happen that much more quickly. We want to ensure that 10,000 devices are examined through the year, rather than being left for months and months before the investigation can be taken further. On the court process, he will be glad to know of my decision to ask the Law Commission to look at some of the enduring issues surrounding the trial process, which I think will address many of his observations.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. I was disheartened to hear that there are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape a year and that the reason that the figure is estimated is that less than 20% of victims of rape report to the police. Will the Secretary of State outline whether funding will be available to provide greater training for the first port of call in finding justice—the first police officer called to the scene—to help them to have a greater understanding of the needs of a rape victim in the first instance? Does he intend to provide additional funding for police forces throughout the UK to ensure that there are highly trained support-giving officers on every shift in every police district in every part of the United Kingdom?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I rightly have to speak about England and Wales as a jurisdiction, but I know these issues cover all three jurisdictions. There are plenty of examples of good practice where suitably trained police officers do that sort of work. We want to ensure greater consistency, and over and above the combined CPS-police working, I want more external scrutiny, in particular examining and looking at cases to ensure that all necessary evidence has been gathered, rather than the case being dropped. That aspect of challenging and testing the evidence will be an important plank of what I hope will be an increased number of cases. This is about confidence, and all Members of the House want to give those who have suffered at the hands of perpetrators the confidence they need to come forward. I accept that confidence has taken a huge hit in the last few years, and I hope that through my acknowledgement of that, and my willingness to take action—something I know is supported by Members across the House—we can start to grow confidence and improve that vital trust.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear many times from friends and constituents the perception that if someone is a victim of crime, a rape, coming forward and reporting that will be painful—the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made that point. People feel they will not be trusted, and there is a barrier because people are not even coming forward to achieve the possibility of justice. How will the Lord Chancellor hold the system to account for the actions to which his Government have committed, to ensure that the report is delivered on, and those barriers broken down?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right to ask how we will measure this process; the scorecards, the data metrics, that will be published later this year will be a crucial way to do that. They will consider things such as victim engagement, the quality of files being processed, and the overall impact that that is having on the system. Those data will be an invaluable public source of accountability. I am prepared to go further. If we do not see the outcomes that I set out, we will of course have to look again at accountability issues. Given the excellent way that my hon. Friend opened her question, she will be glad to know that the CPS is in the process of developing new guidance for pre-trial therapy, counselling and support, with the aim of ensuring that victims get the support they need in a way that does not undermine or diminish the quality of their evidence. That could be a vital step forward for victims.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Darlington and County Durham’s rape and sexual abuse counselling centre is working with around 300 survivors. We know that 44% of rape victims pull out of the justice system before their day in court, and most never come forward to the police at all, with trauma being a major reason for that. What measures has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that sustainable funding for the mental wellbeing and support of victims is available at every point on the pathway to justice, and beyond?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and I pay tribute to the work being done by agencies in Durham. As she rightly points out, that is an example of the very good practice we see in various parts of our country. She will be glad to note the increased funding that I announced for ISVAs, and our intention to go further in the victims’ law consultation to create a national statutory framework. She is right to press the issue of expenditure and funding, and in the past two years my Department has achieved, year-on-year, 5% increases in revenue funding. In the next spending review I intend to make a strong case for the need to ensure that the rape review, and its ambition, is met with results.

Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have spoken to victims who were actually treated well by the police—they were looked after—but when the Crown Prosecution Service became involved, it all fell apart. What steps is my right hon. and learned Friend taking to improve collaboration between the police and the CPS so that victims get the full support that they need?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend rightly identifies the breakdown that can sometimes occur when one agency passes over responsibility to another. That should not be happening. There are plenty of examples where there is better practice, but it should be uniform. That is why, in the report, we place heavy emphasis on joint working between the police and the CPS to create a much more seamless approach to the support for victims. Victims find that if they have one main point of contact who is with them throughout the process, that makes things somewhat easier compared with the experience of others. That is a very important principle when it comes to the support that victims deserve. The victims code will, and does already with its improvements, set out fundamental and clear rights, and we will go further by enshrining those in legislation.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The review that the Secretary of State has presented quotes victims as reporting that the withdrawal of services in recent years has played a crucial part in their failure to secure a prosecution. He has said in the media in recent days that the lack of investment and the cuts in recent years have played a part in the fall in prosecutions, so if disinvestment in parts of the criminal justice system is part of the problem, why has he presented a plan to Parliament that includes almost no reinvestment in the system?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and, again, I pay tribute to the work that he has done on victims’ issues. Even though he has other responsibilities, I know that he will want to engage in the ongoing victims’ law consultation. I readily acknowledge some of the pressures and financial issues that have led to some services not being there, but some services were not even there in the first place. The number of ISVAs in the country is too low and that has historically been the case. I want to see not a return to a previous number but a new departure in the scale of support for victims. He will note the funding that I announced this year, which I want to follow up: I will continue to make the point and make the case that we need a sustained improvement in services to see long-term results. The hon. Gentleman’s voice is being heard.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

None of what has been said so far is going to get us very far. It is absolutely intimidating for a woman—an alleged victim of rape—to have to go through a traditional court procedure. Can we not think, in really radical terms, of replacing this confrontational system with something more like the family courts? In the context of alleged rape, it is quite right that the victim has anonymity, but if the perpetrator had anonymity as well—if the case was not going forward in a blaze of local or national publicity—we might actually get closer to the truth.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend posits a very interesting point about the merits of perhaps a more inquisitorial or consensual system than the adversarial system, but I remind him—of course, he was a practitioner as well—that allegations of a criminal nature have to meet a high standard of proof, and the burden of proof is on the prosecution in these cases. There is no getting away from that, which is why, progressively over the years, we have done everything we can to improve and to allow the best evidence to come forward from complainants through the use of special measures, remote technology and, indeed, the TV link, which has been around for 30 years. I want to go further with regard to that and make sure that evidence can be dealt with as early as possible. I will no doubt have further discussions about this issue with him, but at this stage I believe that we can seek improvement through the existing system while, as I say, dealing with some of the unfortunate consequences to which he rightly alludes.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This review applies to England and Wales only, but Scotland faces similar challenges. In 2009 I was privileged to be one of the first specialist sex crimes prosecutors in Scotland’s national sex crimes unit, and I am looking to its work being rejuvenated under the leadership of the Lord Advocate, my very dear friend Dorothy Bain QC. Does the Lord Chancellor agree that it is imperative for data accuracy, and for trust in official statistics, in public policy, in media reporting and in research and public bodies that the sex of those directly charged with rape or attempted rape is accurately recorded?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join the hon. and learned Lady in her remarks about the Scottish system. I congratulate the new Lord Advocate and look forward to meeting her. As I have always said to the hon. and learned Lady, there is much that we can learn from the Scots and, I know, much that the Scots learn from England and Wales with regard to the prosecution of offences. [Interruption.] Oh, she must readily accept that. We were far ahead of the Scots with regard to rules on corroboration, for example. But it is not a competition; it is all about us learning jointly as part of our United Kingdom. With regard to the accurate reporting of gender, clearly the definition of rape itself will tell us about the sex of the perpetrator. That, in itself, should be the clearest indicator of the sex of the person who perpetrates these crimes. No doubt she and I will talk about this matter further. I think I know the drift of her question.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned that our lives are on our phones. Access to people who can give us comfort on our phones is greatly needed when going through a period of trauma, as are some of the victims of rape coming forward to the police. Can he give us more information about what he is doing to ensure that the ambition that phones will not be separated from victims for more than 24 hours will be achieved, and give us the timeline for that as well?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who, as a practitioner in the law, dealt with, in a family context, many of the consequences of serious sexual abuse. She will see that the report does include direct reference to our ambition to return phones within 24 hours, or to provide a swap-around service so that if the phone cannot be handed back, then a substitute will be given. However, this needs to go further with regard to investment in analytics. That is why this year I shall host a tech summit to bring together the sector in a way that can only lead to enhancements in the speed and quality of data analysis, because she is quite right that we need to improve that experience quickly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I now suspend the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.

16:32
Sitting suspended.
Bills Presented
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the presentation of Bills. As the House can see—I do not think I have seen this many people in the Chamber for a very long time—we have a good many Bills to be presented today. In order to save time and to get on with today’s main business, for Members presenting more than one consecutive Bill, I will accept private notice of the dates of Second Reading for those Bills. These dates will be minuted accordingly in Hansard and in Votes and Proceedings. For Members presenting individual Bills, they will name the date for Second Reading as usual.

Registers of Births and Deaths

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Saqib Bhatti presented a Bill to make provision about the keeping and maintenance of registers of births and deaths; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 34).

Mental Health Provision (Children and Young People)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Munira Wilson presented a Bill to require the Government to report annually to Parliament on mental health provision for children and young people.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2022, and to be printed (Bill 35).

Asylum Seekers (Permission to Work)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Carol Monaghan, supported by Martin Docherty-Hughes, Patrick Grady, Anum Qaisar-Javed, David Linden, Stewart Malcolm McDonald, Stuart C McDonald, Anne McLaughlin, Angus Brendan MacNeil, Chris Stephens, Alison Thewliss and Owen Thompson, presented a Bill to make provision for granting permission to work to asylum seekers who have waited six months for a decision on their asylum application; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 36).

Miniature Mobile Phones (Prohibition of Sale)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sarah Atherton presented a Bill to prohibit the sale of miniature mobile phones; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 37).

Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mark Garnier, supported by Mr Steve Baker, Anthony Mangnall, David Morris, Kelly Tolhurst, Caroline Nokes, Jake Berry, Emma Hardy and Fleur Anderson, presented a Bill to make provision about consumer protection in relation to domestic building works; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 38).

Unsolicited Explicit Images And Deepfake Pornography

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Angela Richardson presented a Bill to create the offences of sending unsolicited explicit digital images and of producing digitally-altered images or videos in which an individual is depicted pornographically without their consent; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 39).

Local Authority Boundaries (Referendums)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Robbie Moore, supported by Philip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision to enable parliamentary constituency areas to form new unitary local authority areas if agreed by referendum; to make provision for such referendums; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 40).

Approved Premises (Substance Testing)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Rob Butler presented a Bill to make provision about substance testing in approved premises and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 41).

Prime Minister (Temporary Replacement)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to make provision for the carrying out of the functions of the Prime Minister in the event that a Prime Minister, or a person temporarily carrying out the functions of the Prime Minister, is incapacitated; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 42).

British Goods (Public Sector Purchasing Duty)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to place a duty on public bodies to have a presumption in favour of purchasing goods of British origin in purchasing decisions; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 43).

Covid-19 Vaccine Damage

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to establish an independent review of disablement caused by Covid-19 vaccinations and the adequacy of the compensation offered to persons so disabled; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 44).

Employment Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Martin Docherty-Hughes, supported by Chris Stephens, presented a Bill to make provision about the rights of workers, including to negotiate pay and join trade unions and employee associations; to amend the definition of worker; to make provision about the employment rights of members of the armed forces; to make provision about employee representatives on company boards; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 45).

Corporate Homicide Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to amend the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 to make provision about the offence of corporate homicide; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 46).

Public Advocate Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Maria Eagle, supported by Sir George Howarth, Derek Twigg, Alison McGovern, Dame Angela Eagle, Peter Dowd, Bill Esterson, Conor McGinn, Dan Carden, Ian Byrne, Paula Barker and Kim Johnson, presented a Bill to establish a public advocate to provide advice to, and act as data controller for, representatives of the deceased after major incidents.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 47).

Paternity (Leave and Pay) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Gareth Davies presented a Bill to extend eligibility for paternity leave and pay; to make provision for more flexibility in the timing of, and notice period for, paternity leave; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 48).

Goods Delivery Services Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Jamie Stone presented a Bill to regulate charges for, and the advertising of, goods delivery services; to make provision about transport infrastructure in remote areas to promote the use of goods delivery services; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March, and to be printed (Bill 49).

Public Bodies (Representation from Devolved Nations) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Wendy Chamberlain presented a Bill to require the Government to have regard to the desirability of boards of public bodies including at least one person with relevant experience in at least one of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 50).

Education Employment (Accompaniment to Hearings) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Brendan Clarke-Smith, supported by Andrew Lewer, Andrew Percy, Caroline Ansell, Damian Hinds, Jonathan Gullis, Jim Shannon, Robert Halfon, Scott Benton, Selaine Saxby, Tim Loughton and Virginia Crosby, presented a Bill to provide that teachers and other education staff may choose to be accompanied to disciplinary or grievance hearings by a person other than a trade union representative or colleague; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 51).

Clean Air Targets (World Health Organization Guidelines) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Christine Jardine presented a Bill to require United Kingdom clean air targets to comply with World Health Organization guidelines; to require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on that compliance; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 52).

Energy Pricing Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Martyn Day, supported by Margaret Ferrier, Marion Fellows, John Mc Nally, Ronnie Cowan and Douglas Chapman, presented a Bill to prohibit the practice of offering preferential energy tariffs to new customers compared to existing customers; to place further restrictions on energy pricing; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 53).

Commercial Rent (Prohibition of Upward-Only Reviews) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Sarah Olney presented a Bill to prohibit the use of upward-only rent review clauses in commercial rent agreements; to nullify existing such clauses; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2022, and to be printed (Bill 54).

City of Bradford (Referendum on Shipley and Keighley)Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Philip Davies, supported by Robbie Moore, presented a Bill to make provision for a district-wide referendum in the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council area on the continued inclusion of the areas covered by the Shipley and Keighley parliamentary constituencies in that district; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 55).

Wellbeing of Future Generations (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Simon Fell presented a Bill to make provision for a public consultation to inform a set of national wellbeing goals; to require public bodies to act in pursuit of the United Kingdom’s environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing by meeting wellbeing objectives, publishing future generations impact assessments and accounting for preventative spending; to establish a futures and forecasting report; to establish a Commission for Future Generations for the United Kingdom; to extend the duty of the Office of Budget Responsibility to consider wellbeing and the future generations principle in their work; to add onto a Minister in each government department’s portfolio a duty to promote the future generations principle across government policy; to establish a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Future Generations; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 56).

Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Wera Hobhouse presented a Bill to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2022, and to be printed (Bill 57).

Pedicabs (London) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Nickie Aiken, supported by Felicity Buchan, Florence Eshalomi, David Simmonds and Ms Karen Buck, presented a Bill to provide for the regulation of the carrying of passengers in Greater London by pedal cycles and power-assisted pedal cycles for hire or reward; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 58).

Employment (Caring Leave) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Jack Brereton presented a Bill to give employees who are unpaid carers the right to one week’s unpaid leave for caring purposes; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 59).

Palestine Statehood (Recognition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Layla Moran, supported by Ed Davey, Stephen Farry, Sarah Champion, Andy Slaughter, Alyn Smith, Caroline Lucas and Claire Hanna, presented a Bill to make provision in connection with the recognition of the State of Palestine.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2022, and to be printed (Bill 60).

Climate and Ecology Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by Barry Gardiner, Alan Brown, Ed Davey, Liz Saville Roberts, Claire Hanna, Stephen Farry, Clive Lewis, Alex Sobel, Brendan O’Hara, Sarah Olney and Ben Lake, presented a Bill to require the United Kingdom to achieve climate and nature targets; to give the Secretary of State a duty to implement a strategy to achieve those targets; to establish a Climate and Nature Assembly to advise the Secretary of State in creating that strategy; to give duties to the Committee on Climate Change and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee regarding the strategy and targets; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 61).

Non-Disclosure Agreements Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Mrs Maria Miller presented a Bill to restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 62).

Tips Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Dean Russell presented a Bill to prohibit employers retaining tips and gratuities intended for staff; to make provision about the division of tips and gratuities between staff; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 63).

Education (16 to 19 Academies) (Religious Character)Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Scott Benton presented a Bill to permit 16 to 19 academies to have a designated religious character; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 64).

Kinship Care (Parental Leave) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Katherine Fletcher presented a Bill to make provision about parental leave for kinship carers who take on responsibility for children whose parents are unable to care for them; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 65).

Miscarriage Leave Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Angela Crawley presented a Bill to make provision for paid leave for people who have experienced miscarriage.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 66).

Crown Estate (Devolution to Wales) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Liz Saville Roberts, supported by Hywel Williams and Ben Lake, presented a Bill to devolve management of the Crown Estate and its assets in Wales to the Welsh Government; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 67).

Electric Vehicle Charging Points (New Buildings) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No.57)

Felicity Buchan presented a Bill to make provision about electric vehicle charging points in new buildings; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 68).

Electoral Commission (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to abolish the Electoral Commission; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 69).

Hospitals (Parking Charges and Business Rates) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to prohibit charging for car parking at NHS Hospitals for patients and visitors; to make provision for NHS Hospitals to be exempt from business rates; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 70).

Human Trafficking (Child Protection) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to make provision for the creation of secure safe houses for children that have been subject to human trafficking; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 71).

General Election (Leaders’ Debates) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to set up a commission to make arrangements for debates between leaders of political parties during a General Election; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 72).

Homeless People (Current Accounts) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to require banks to provide current accounts for homeless people seeking work; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 73).

Electoral Candidates (Age) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to allow a person who is age 18 or older on the day of a parliamentary or local election to stand as candidate; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 74).

Prime Minister (Accountability to House of Commons) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to impose duties on the Prime Minister relating to accountability to the House of Commons; to require the Prime Minister to be available to answer questions in that House on at least two occasions during a sitting week except in specified circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 75).

Voter Registration Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to prohibit persons from being registered to vote in Parliamentary elections at more than one address; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 76).

North Northamptonshire (Urgent Care Facilities) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to make provision about the restructuring of urgent care facilities in North Northamptonshire; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2022, and to be printed (Bill 77).

Business of the House Commission Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to create a Business of the House Commission to regulate the timetabling of business in the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 78).

Asylum Seekers (Return to Safe Countries) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to require asylum seekers who have arrived in the United Kingdom from a safe country to be immediately returned to that country; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 79).

BBC Licence Fee (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to abolish the BBC licence fee and make the BBC a subscription service; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 80).

Human Trafficking (Sentencing) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to make provision about penalties for human trafficking offences.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 81).

Leader of the House of Commons (Election) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to amend the House of Commons Administration Act 1978 to provide that the Prime Minister may only nominate as Leader of the House of Commons a Member of that House who is from the governing party and is elected by a system in which all Members of the House of Commons may participate; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 82).

Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone presented a Bill to amend retained EU law relating to compulsory insurance for the use of motor vehicles; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 83).

Consumer Pricing Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to prohibit the practice of offering preferential pricing to new customers compared to existing customers; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 84).

Broadcasting (Listed Sporting Events) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to expand the list of sporting events that must be made available for broadcast by free-to-air television channels; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 85).

Puppy Import (Prohibition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to prohibit the import of young puppies; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 86).

Employment (Application Requirements) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to regulate the use of minimum qualification or experience requirements in job applications; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 87).

Public Sector Website Impersonation Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to create an offence of impersonating a public sector website for the purpose of collecting payment or personal data; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 88).

Hunting Trophy Import (Prohibition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to prohibit the import of wild animal specimens derived from trophy hunting; and for connected purposes..

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 89).

Armenian Genocide (Recognition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to require Her Majesty’s Government to formally recognise the Armenian genocide of 1915-16.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 90).

House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John Spellar presented a Bill to amend the House of Lords Act 1999 so as to abolish the system of by-elections for hereditary peers.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 91).

Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (Amendment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to amend the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to make provision about Parliamentary scrutiny of regulations made under that Act; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 92).

Caravan Site Licensing (Exemptions of Motor Homes) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to exempt motor homes from caravan site licensing requirements; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 93).

NHS England (Alternative Treatment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision about arranging alternative non-NHS England treatment for patients who have waited for more than one year for hospital treatment; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 94).

Channel 4 (Privatisation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision for the privatisation of Channel 4; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 95).

British Broadcasting Corporation (Privatisation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision for the privatisation of the British Broadcasting Corporation; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 96).

Children’s Clothing (Value Added Tax) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to extend the definition of children’s clothing for the purposes of exemption from VAT; to extend the VAT exemption to further categories of school uniform; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 97).

BBC Licence Fee Non-Payment (Decriminalisation for Over-75s) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to decriminalise the non-payment of the BBC licence fee by persons aged over seventy five; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 98).

Regulatory Impact Assessments Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to require a Regulatory Impact Assessment to be published for all primary and secondary legislation introduced by the Government; to make provision for associated sanctions; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 99).

Barnett Formula (Replacement) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to report to Parliament on proposals to replace the Barnett Formula used to calculate adjustments to public expenditure allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with a statutory scheme for the allocation of resources based on an assessment of relative needs; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 100).

NHS (Prohibition of Data Transfer) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to prohibit the transfer of personal data by the NHS without the authority of the data subject; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 101).

Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to amend the Mobile Homes Act 1983; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 102).

Rule of Law (Enforcement by Public Authorities) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to require public authorities to exercise their statutory powers to investigate and take enforcement action for breaches of the law; to make provision for sanctions for failing to take such action; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 February 2022 , and to be printed (Bill 103).

Illegal Immigration (Offences) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)s

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to create offences in respect of persons who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 104).

National Health Service Co-Funding and Co-Payment Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision for co-funding and for the extension of co-payment for NHS services in England; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 105).

Caravan Sites Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to amend the requirements for caravan site licence applications made under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 106).

Public Sector Exit Payments (Limitation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to limit exit payments made by some public sector organisations to employees; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 107).

Green Belt (Protection) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Christopher Chope presented a Bill to establish a national register of Green Belt land in England; to restrict the ability of local authorities to de-designate Green Belt land; to make provision about future development of de-designated Green Belt land and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 October, and to be printed (Bill 108).

Workers (Employment Security and Definition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Martin Docherty-Hughes, supported by Chris Stephens, presented a Bill to make provision about employment security and the rights of workers; to amend the definition of worker; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 109).

Workers (Rights and Definition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to make provision about workers’ rights; to amend the definition of worker; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 110).

Full Employment Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to place a duty on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pursue a policy of full employment; to make associated provision for an employment guarantee scheme for benefit claimants who have been unemployed and looking for work for longer than six months; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 111).

Health and Safety at Work Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to amend the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to make provision about civil liability for breaches of health and safety duties, and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 November, and to be printed (Bill 112).

Asylum Seekers (Accommodation Eviction Procedures) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to make provision for asylum seekers to challenge the proportionality of a proposed eviction from accommodation before an independent court or tribunal; to establish asylum seeker accommodation eviction procedures for public authorities; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 113).

Disability Benefit Assessments (Recording) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to place a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that applicants for Disability Benefit are given the option of their eligibility assessment being audio-recorded; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 114).

Benefit Sanctions (Warnings) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to make provision for warnings to be given to benefit claimants before they are given sanctions; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 115).

Universal Credit Sanctions (Zero Hours Contracts) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to amend the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to provide that a Universal Credit claimant may not be sanctioned for refusing work on a zero hours contract; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 December, and to be printed (Bill 116).

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (Powers) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to grant powers to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to identify and investigate systemic problems in the benefits system and make associated recommendations to the Secretary of State; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 117).

Under-Occupancy Penalty (Report) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the merits of repealing those provisions of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which provide for persons to be paid reduced rates of housing benefit or universal credit because their accommodation is deemed to be under-occupied.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 118).

Social Security Benefits (Healthy Eating) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to publish annual calculations of the benefit and tax credit rates that would be required for a representative household to afford to buy meals in accordance with the Eatwell Guide to eating healthily; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 119).

Housing Standards (Refugees and Asylum Seekers) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to make provision for national minimum standards in accommodation offered to refugees and asylum seekers; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 120).

Asylum Seekers (Permission to Work) (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to make provision for granting permission to work to asylum seekers who have waited six months for a decision on their asylum application; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 121).

Evictions (Universal Credit) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Stephens presented a Bill to place a duty on the Secretary of State to prevent the evictions of Universal Credit claimants in rent arrears; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 122).

Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Christine Jardine presented a Bill to grant indefinite leave to remain to health and social care staff; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 123).

Intimate Images (Offences) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mrs Maria Miller presented a Bill to create offences relating to the taking, making and sharing of intimate images without consent; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 124).

Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mrs Maria Miller, supported by Sally-Ann Hart, Nickie Aiken, Mrs Flick Drummond, Virginia Crosbie, Caroline Nokes, Karen Bradley, Angela Crawley, Sarah Champion, Jeremy Hunt and Stephen Timms, presented a Bill to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months after the end of the pregnancy or leave, except in specified circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 125).

Workers (Rights) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Gavin Newlands, supported by Ian Blackford, Chris Stephens, Mhairi Black, Kirsten Oswald, Brendan O’Hara, David Linden, Drew Hendry, Alan Brown, Alison Thewliss, Amy Callaghan and Owen Thompson, presented a Bill to make provision about workers’ rights; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 126).

Workers (Rights and Definition) (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Angela Crawley presented a Bill to make provision about workers’ rights; to amend the definition of worker; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 127).

Workers (Rights) (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Anum Qaisar-Javed, supported by Ian Blackford, Gavin Newlands, Chris Stephens, Kirsten Oswald, David Linden, Angela Crawley, Martin Docherty-Hughes, Martyn Day, Carol Monaghan, Angus Brendan MacNeil and Owen Thompson, presented a Bill to make provision about workers’ rights; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 128).

Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Jim Shannon presented a Bill to require the installation of automated external defibrillators in public buildings, sporting facilities, schools, higher education and other education and skills facilities, and facilities that provide care to vulnerable people; and to make associated provision about training and signage.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 10 September, and to be printed (Bill 129).

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I will briefly suspend the House for two minutes in order to make preparations for the next item of business.

00:05
Sitting suspended.

Opposition Day

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
[3rd ALLOTTED DAY]

Planning Decisions: Local Involvement

Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
15:59
Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab/Co-op)
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I beg to move,

That this House believes planning works best when developers and the local community work together to shape local areas and deliver necessary new homes; and therefore calls on the Government to protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications.

It was only last month in the Queen’s Speech debate that we warned the Government that they would reap a political whirlwind if they went ahead with their plans to silence communities and hand control over planning to developers. They felt the first blasts of that whirlwind in Chesham and Amersham, but it will not finish there because it is fair to say that the Conservatives’ planning reforms are not popular with voters. That is not because voters are nimbys, as Ministers rather offensively like to brand them, but because residents rightly want and deserve a say over how their own neighbourhoods are developed.

Under the Conservatives’ proposals, planning decisions will be taken away from democratically elected local councils and handed to development boards appointed by Ministers in Whitehall. These new quangos will help zone areas for development. Residents living in areas zoned for growth will find that they no longer have an automatic right to object to individual planning applications on their own doorsteps, no right to object to oversized blocks at the end of the street, no right to object to concreting over precious green space, and no right to object to new developments that overburden local infrastructure such as roads, doctors’ surgeries, schools or public transport.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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I can quite understand why the hon. Gentleman wants to make a doomed bid for prosperous Tory voters in the south-east, but will he answer the question, on behalf of my children, young professional people working in London and the south-east: how on earth are they going to get on to the property market?

Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed
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The point the right hon. Gentleman makes is important. If he listens to my speech, he will hear me go on to talk about the 1 million consented homes that have not been built, which all those people could be living in if the Government would address that issue, rather than tackle the wrong issue, which they seem intent on doing, despite the backlash from their own political supporters against their proposals.

Under the Government’s proposals, residents will be gagged from speaking out, while developers will be set loose to bulldoze and concrete over local neighbourhoods pretty much at will. These proposals are nothing less than a developers’ charter that silences local communities, so developers can exploit local communities for profit.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman talks about the Government’s proposals. I think that he should bring them here and table them in this House, because all that we on the Government Benches have seen is a White Paper. We have not seen the Government’s response to that. Perhaps he has.

Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed
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It is pretty fair to say that a White Paper is Government proposals.

Why would the Government do something so desperately unpopular with their own voters, let alone with all the rest of voters? Well, since the current Prime Minister took office, donations to the Conservative party from major developers have increased by nearly 400%, according to analysis by openDemocracy. That money was an investment in expectation of a return, and here it is. The Prime Minister is paying back developers by selling out communities.

The Government’s proposals have been criticised by the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Town and Country Planning Association, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Local Government Association, the Countryside Alliance and even the National Trust, but they have also been criticised by Members on the Government’s own Benches. The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), a distinguished former Prime Minister, says:

“We need to ensure that that planning system sees the right number of homes being built in the right places. But we will not do that by removing local democracy, cutting the number of affordable homes that are built and building over rural areas. Yet that is exactly what these reforms will lead to.”—[Official Report, 8 October 2020; Vol. 681, c. 1051.]

That was the former Conservative Prime Minister speaking about the Government’s proposals. The right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) says:

“Increasingly, it looks like the Government are not interested in what local people think at all. I urge the Minister to think about the impact of showing contempt for local democracy.”—[Official Report, 8 October 2020; Vol. 681, c. 1063.]

That was a senior member of the Housing Minister’s own party accusing the Government of showing contempt for local democracy. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) puts it like this—

“instead of taking away local powers, the Government should be looking at the number of planning permissions given that do not result in houses being built.”—[Official Report, 8 October 2020; Vol. 681, c. 1066.]

That is precisely the point I made in response to the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). They are all right—they are all absolutely right.

I used to co-chair the biggest regeneration strategy board in the country—it delivered over 5,000 new homes—and that experience showed me that regeneration works best in everyone’s interests when it is a strong partnership between councils, communities and developers. That is how we get new homes built where people need them. The best developers know that, too. They do not want to build in the teeth of local opposition; they want to work with the local community and build something that enhances the local area for the existing community as well as for newcomers and those who need a home.

There are real problems with the current planning system that need to be addressed. We are not building the number of new homes the country needs. The last Labour Government increased home ownership by 1 million people. The current Conservative Government, sadly, have reduced it by 800,000 people, and they have cut the amount of social housing being built by 80%. However, the problem with getting homes built is not the planning process; it is developers who do not build the homes once they have consent. The Government are refusing to tackle the real problem. Nine in 10 planning applications get approval, but according to the Conservative-led Local Government Association, over 1.1 million homes that received consent in the past decade have still not been built, which is over half of all homes approved by council planning departments.

One of the problems causing this situation is land banking. That is where a developer gets approval for an application to build new homes, but instead of building, waits for land values to rise so they can sell it on without having laid a single brick. Instead of a planning Bill that does nothing about this, we need new measures that incentivise developers to get these shovel-ready homes built more quickly, and since the Government have done nothing at all about this, we will bring forward legislation for the House to vote on.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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Does the hon. Member agree that this is not about the number of houses, but about the whole infrastructure around housing applications —accessibility, connectivity, access to schools and green places? The planning system is not just about building the number of houses, but about building them in the right places with the right infrastructure around them.

Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed
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I thank the hon. Member for her intervention, and certainly new homes need appropriate infrastructure to allow communities to thrive. That is one of the important reasons why local communities need a say over planning and development—a say that the Government are intent, unfortunately, on taking away from them. Regeneration cannot be something that is done to communities; it must be done with them. The current planning system does not work well enough, that is for sure, but the answer cannot be to carve local communities out of a say over their own neighbourhoods. It should be to incentivise developers to build the homes they have approval for.

The motion before the House is a modest proposal that simply invites Members to vote for what many Government Members say they believe in. It simply asks the Government to guarantee that residents will retain the right to a hearing over individual developments on their own streets, in their own neighbourhood or on their own local green space. We are asking for nothing more than what Government Members have already said they want. Their own Front Benchers clearly are not listening to them, so here is the chance for them to make the point more clearly. Members’ constituents would be astonished if their MP failed to vote for something that they say they support, so I urge Members in all parts of the House to come together this afternoon. Let us work cross party, across the Chamber, and take a stand for the communities that we all represent.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. It will be obvious to the House that a great many people wish to speak in this debate and the next debate this afternoon, so we will have to begin with a time limit of three minutes, which will be immediately imposed.

00:01
Christopher Pincher Portrait The Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher)
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I am sure that the entire House enjoyed the performance of the hon. Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed), the shadow Housing Minister, although I have to say that the closest he came to accuracy, Madam Deputy Speaker, was when he addressed you as Madam Deputy Speaker. However, at least he gives me the opportunity to put the case for a transparent, engaging and modern planning system that will help to deliver the homes that we need, to give everyone in our country the chance, if they want to, to get on to the housing ladder.

Our planning reforms are a sensible set of proposals to address the failures of the English planning system, which was conceived almost three quarters of a century ago and which many accept is now too slow, too difficult to navigate and too off-putting for the broad mass of communities. Right now, it can take up to seven years to adopt a local plan. Only 41% of local authorities have an up-to-date plan and some have no plan at all, all of which puts much of their communities at risk of speculative development.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
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Talking about councils that have no plan, I refer the House to my Labour-led council in Bury. Does the Minister agree that while we want democratic engagement, the worst thing possible is to have that engagement and not listen to the people, as my council is doing to the over 10,000 people who want protection of the green belt, every single one of whom is being ignored?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I hope that my hon. Friend’s council does listen, and I also hope, for that matter, that the Greater Manchester Mayor listens. We have given them £75 million of public funds to invest in brownfield remediation. Let him use it effectively for his constituents in Greater Manchester.

Individual planning applications can take up to five years to determine, in addition to plans potentially taking up to seven years. The system is not fast enough and it is not consistent, nor is it clear or engaging enough. We are committed to improving the system, because our reforms will protect our valuable and beautiful green spaces, with vital protections for the green belt.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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The Government’s Environment Bill rightly protects environmental net gain. How can that possibly work within a zonal planning system?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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We are determined to bake in biodiversity net gain of 10%. We are determined to look at recovery networks and also to ensure that we introduce a future homes standard. We will make sure that, baked into these plans and beyond, the environment comes first and foremost. I shall say a few more words about that in a moment.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)
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Will the Minister allow me to intervene?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I will allow my hon. Friend very briefly.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker
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In Wycombe, in the especially treasured area of Gomm Valley, there was public consent for a plan to put in some houses that actually increased environmental amenity. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the public need the opportunity to say no, but the incentives to say yes, because they can see the gains for their community? May I also invite him to look at plans that I put forward in 2014 that would do just that?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We certainly want communities to have much greater involvement in planning, and I will certainly look at the proposals that my hon. Friend put forward.

Our proposals will deliver a simpler, faster, more transparent process, giving communities and builders, especially small builders, certainty over what development is permitted through clear land allocations in local plans. They will ensure that developers contribute a fair share to funding affordable housing and infrastructure through a new, more predictable, more transparent and faster infrastructure levy that will ensure that communities get the affordable homes—and the schools, clinics and roundabouts to support those homes—when they need them. And they will further empower local people to set standards for beauty and design through local design codes, putting beauty at the heart of the planning system for the first time. The proposals will bring a slow and cumbersome paper-based system into the digital age, with interactive maps at our fingertips and involving far more local people than at present.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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One of the concerns in my constituency is flooding, and as the Minister knows, the Flood Re insurance programme is suitable only for homes that were built before 2009. Given that all these new homes are being proposed, what reassurance can he give people that they will still be able to have affordable flood insurance to go with them?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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The hon. Lady is quite right, and we will look at the flooding issue as we further develop our proposals and bring them to Parliament. I recognise that this is a challenge; it is a challenge in my own constituency too.

One poll showed that 69% of people had no knowledge of or connection with local plan making. That is simply not good enough, and we believe that there is an appetite for change. Let me briefly come to some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Croydon North. We all know that he is trying to make a name for himself—quite some name—and we also know that he has one or two little hobby-horses. But like so many hobby-horses, they can turn into an obsession. He started out quite normally with an interest in planning and its rules, but quickly—all too quickly—it went downhill. He conceives himself as some sort of latter-day witchfinder general, a chief of the inquisition constantly in search of some heresy under every stone, and finding plots and conspiracy under every brick. I fear that his latest, albeit short, outpouring shows that the fantasy has gone a little too far. In just a few minutes, he has gone from acting like Tomás de Torquemada to being like David Icke. How long will it be before he runs off and jumps into his turquoise tracksuit and starts telling everybody that the world is run by lizards and that he is the godhead?

In the wording of the Opposition’s proposals, are they now saying that they oppose local development orders, which allow certain types of development to go ahead without a specific planning application, even though they introduced that legislation themselves in 2004? Are they also opposed to neighbourhood development orders, which also allow certain developments without specific planning applications? It sounds as if they are. In fact, it sounds as if they do not really know what they are talking about and that they do not have any firm, sound policies at all, which his predecessor, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), admitted in a private briefing.

I make this offer to the hon. Gentleman: come in to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, talk to our officials and let them explain how the current planning system rules for Ministers work. In that way, he can see for himself how carefully it is controlled. He may not take any notice—in fact, I suspect he probably will not—but at least he will have had the chance to listen, to ask some questions and possibly to learn.

There has been a good deal of discussion, in the House and beyond, about community engagement. I reassure the House that our proposals will not diminish the ability of local communities to take part in the planning process. On the contrary, they are designed to give communities more of a say, not less, with better information, easier means of taking part and, crucially, a clearer voice when it can make a real difference in the planning process.

Under our present planning system, when asked what they think of their local area, there are twice as many people who say that it has got worse as those who say it has got better. Under our present planning system, just 1% of the local population get involved in local plan making, and just 2% or 3% of local people get involved in discussions about local developments. That is very few—too few—yet with so little engagement, and often after months or years of tortuous wrangling, nine in every 10 planning applications end up being approved anyway. I do not think that those facts suggest a system that is really very engaging, still less one that is truly empowering. We can do better, and we will.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Will the Minister therefore listen to local communities who want local occupancy restrictions so that they can live in local homes, as opposed to those homes becoming holiday lets and Airbnbs?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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We are certainly open to the proposition; we are taking it forward anyway with our proposition for first homes. However, I suggest to the hon. Lady that it would be very helpful if, as I know she believes should happen, her own local authority got a plan in place to protect its community—her community—from speculative developments.

Our proposals will increase opportunities for local people to be involved in local plans, using a map-based system that will show clearly what building is proposed and where, what it will be, what it will look like and what kind of infrastructure will support it—real involvement, including in the development of local design codes. Through our new office for place, drawing on Britain’s world-class design expertise, communities and their local councils will be empowered to set local design standards, putting design and beauty at the heart of our planning system.

Dean Russell Portrait Dean Russell (Watford) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the consultation people should have a say on the height of buildings in their local community, so that they do not live under the shadow of tall buildings when they do not wish to?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I am obliged to my hon. Friend, who is a doughty campaigner for his constituents. As he will know, we introduced a tall buildings policy in London in the teeth of opposition from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. We are certainly open to the prospect of such policies more broadly, beyond London; I am happy to talk to my hon. Friend about that policy opportunity.

Our plans will make it easier for local people to really influence the plan in their community and have their say on the future development of their local area, including the standards of design that builders must adhere to.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford
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The Minister is being generous in giving way. We have talked about the huge importance of communities engaging in the planning process and of having a local plan, but does he agree that the most engaging way to get residents involved in the planning process is by rolling out more neighbourhood plans, so that the process can be devolved to the most local areas possible, whether they are areas of towns or villages?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising neighbourhood plans. We are keen to advance the opportunities that they afford to their communities. We are very conscious that they tend to occur in the south of our country or in the more rural parts; we are determined to roll them out into places further north and places that are much more urban, so that those communities too can benefit from the opportunity.

Our proposals will transform how planning and plan-making is done, taking us from an era of planning notifications on lamp posts to digital, interactive services enabling prop-tech companies to develop more engaging ways to visualise and communicate planning information, in turn improving everyone’s overall understanding of what is happening and where. Plans will be more accessible, presented in new, visual map-based formats based on machine-readable data accompanied by clear site-specific requirements. As I say, communities will be engaged at the earliest stages of the plan-making process to ensure that their views are fully reflected. To make sure that local authorities have the tools that they need, we promise a holistic review of council planning resources, because we want councils and their officers to have the scope and the skills to plan strategically for their communities, involving communities much more closely in their plan-making, the design of their communities, and the infrastructure to support them.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
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Fundamental to building a consensus around the new planning structure will be making better use of brownfield land and, in particular, investing in brownfield land registers. Land is our most precious commodity. We are all into recycling. Recycling our land must be the way to go. Does the Minister agree?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That policy point is enshrined in the national planning policy framework and we will take it further in our proposals. The £400 million of brownfield regeneration funding that has been made available by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, added to by a further £100 million, is all designed to add teeth to our determination to develop on brownfield first.

There will be a continuing role for the existing planning application process. As I have said before in this House, that system does not go away. Where applicants wish to vary from the local plan, they will need to make a full planning application in the usual way. Even where the broad principle of development is agreed through the plan, all the details will still need to be consulted on with communities and statutory consultees, and approved by officers or committees where appropriate. We are also looking closely at enforcement rules to ensure that where, such as in growth sites, the local authority has set up clear rules about development—which, by the way, will have had community consultation and agreement in the local plan—the authority has the tools and the ability to monitor and enforce those rules as development is built out.

The hon. Member for Croydon North mentioned build-out. We are very conscious that Oliver Letwin and, before him, Kate Barker produced a series of reports about build-out. We reckon that introducing this new, speedier process, which will aid small and medium-sized enterprises, will make it easier to bring forward plots of land with planning application for development much more quickly, and there will be more competition among developers. If people know that there are some up-front rules that they have to adhere to in order to build, there will be no necessity to land-bank. We are also very conscious of the points that have been made by many Members across the House, and those beyond it, about the importance of getting permissions built out, so we are looking closely at ways in which we can incentivise developers to continue to work closely with local authorities and with landowners to make sure that permissions are built out as rapidly as possible.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con)
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I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend recognises the issue of build-out rate, but he has also referred several times to the risks of speculative development. The risk is that if you do not deliver, you lose control of your plan and are therefore subject to speculative development, which no one wants because such developments are sited in places that have not been supported at all. Does he agree that one of the upsides of the planning system must be to give communities certainty about the number of homes going forward, lessening the risk of losing the five-year land supply by having speculative development?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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My hon. Friend, who is an expert in this field, is absolutely right. As I said in my earlier remarks, too few councils have up-to-date local plans. That leaves their communities at risk of speculative development. By implementing our proposals, which will ensure that local authorities must have local plans in place within 30 months, we will help protect communities such as his and such as all of ours against speculative development.

Our reforms will also leave an inheritance of strengthening and enhancing our environment. They will mean that environmental assets are better protected, more green spaces are provided, more sustainable development is supported, and new homes will be, as I said earlier, much more energy-efficient. Our planning reforms will support the implementation of the 10% biodiversity net gain enshrined in the Environment Bill and capitalise on the potential of local nature recovery networks. We will also make the system clearer and more accountable.

Our reforms also include measures to protect and enhance the green belt, taking into account its fundamental importance when considering the constraints that areas face. We have made it clear in the NPPF, through Government investment and through our permitted development rights reforms, and we make it clear once again in our wider planning reforms: brownfield development must come first.

Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con)
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Under the current system, too often local planning officers advise that unless green belt is released, local plans will be subject to challenge and will lose once they are referred to the inspector. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that where local authorities can demonstrate that they have enough brownfield sites available for development for their own assessed housing need, the green belt in areas such as Dudley South will be protected?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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My hon. Friend must have seen my speech, because I am about to move on to the matter of the green belt, which we will continue to protect, because our policy has not changed. We made a manifesto commitment to the green belt as a means of protecting against urban sprawl, and we mean to keep it. Local authorities should not develop on the green belt, save in exceptional circumstances, and local plan making should recognise the green belt as a constraint on numbers, as my letter to Members of Parliament in December last year made clear. For the record, we will not be accepting the recommendation in the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s report for a wholesale review of the green belt.

These measures and these commitments are important. They are a very important part of delivering the Government’s manifesto commitment to create the most ambitious environmental programme of any country in the world. We are clear that to help make home ownership affordable for more people, we need to deliver more homes, because by the age of 30, those born between 1981 and 2000 are half as likely to be homeowners as those born between 1946 and 1965. We need to take bold steps to provide enough homes in the places where people and communities need them.

At the last general election, we made a commitment to deliver the homes that the country needs—better-quality homes, of different designs and different tenures in the right places all around the country where they are needed. We have promised to extend the chance of home ownership to all who want it, and in any poll one cares to conduct, more than 80% of people—young people, less affluent people—will say that they want the opportunity to own their own home. They aspire to a stake in their community and their country, yet for far too many people that aspiration—

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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The hon. Lady says it is painful. Yes, it is very painful for those people who cannot get on the property ladder. It seems an impossible dream, because in places around our country, the average price of a home is many multiples of average earnings—in some places, it is 12 times the average wage. In other places there are just not enough appropriate homes for older people who want to step down the property ladder into more suitable individual accommodation.

If we are to keep our promise to those who aspire to own their own home or move into the right home, we must not only provide the right economic framework in which skills and jobs can thrive, and continue to deliver initiatives such as Help to Buy, right to buy and First Homes, which give people a leg up on the ladder, but we must deliver the homes people need. That is what we are doing.

We have delivered 1.8 million new homes since 2010. In 2020 we delivered 244,000 new homes across our country. We have an ambition to build—as do the Liberal Democrats, apparently—300,000 homes each year by the middle of this decade. That is in stark contrast to Labour’s lamentable failure to provide the homes this country needs. Under Labour, housebuilding fell to its lowest rate since the 1920s and the days when Ramsay MacDonald was the party leader—by modern standards he was quite popular. In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan has built fewer than half the homes he promised, despite having an extra year in which to do it. In Labour-run Wales, so few council homes are being built that they could barely accommodate a Welsh rugby team.

We now have a new shadow Housing Secretary, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who opposes the delivery of almost any building proposed in her constituency—something of a niche approach to home making. In truth—Labour Members do not like this truth; they cannot handle it—Labour does not like people to own their own homes. Labour Members do not want people, especially young people, to get on the property ladder. They do not like aspiration, they do not like capitalism, and they do not want our people to aspire to or to be capitalists. Well, we have something to say to that and it begins with a B. We say “Bolshevism” to that. Indeed, Lord Mandelson, one of Labour’s more successful and less bolshy people, says the same. When he returned from Hartlepool a few weeks ago, he said:

“I can see that people are proud of what they have achieved,”

He said that people are aspirational, and that they are not sure they have achieved that with Labour—a damning indictment of that party.

By contrast, Conservative Members are proud of those people, and we will ensure that people like them across the country achieve their aspirations under this Government. This Government are determined to level up opportunity the length and breadth of this country. From Redruth to Redcar we are determined to ensure that people are not priced out of their local communities. We are determined to get them on the ladder, because that is what they want. Just a week or two ago Sam Legg, just 19 years of age from Asfordby in Leicestershire, became the 300,000th Help to Buyer. He said that he could not have got on the ladder without Help to Buy and the support of this Government. If people like Sam and Megan, and millions like them all around the country, want to get on the property ladder, we must address the housing challenge head-on.

We know that introducing wide-ranging reforms excites real passion. It is right that those reforms are properly scrutinised by the House, and they will be; we are keen to ensure that our proposals are well considered and reflect the interests of every community across the country. We strongly believe that a modernised, transparent, engaging planning system that delivers better outcomes for local democracy, the economy, the environment and housing in a better and faster way is a long overdue reform. As we emerge from the pandemic, now is the time to drive those reforms forward: giving communities a real say in development; creating more beautiful places; making the very best use of brownfield sites to regenerate our cities and town centres; extending opportunity and security for millions; and delivering the homes our country wants and needs.

While the Opposition sink back into their comfort zone, extolling sectional interest and chained to Corbynite dogma, we will build the homes the country needs. We will build them back better and stronger. We will make sure that the banner of aspiration flies here.

17:35
Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
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I have had to cut my speech down.

I welcome this motion, following the publication of the report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. The Minister will know that my Adjournment debate was a foretaste of what my constituents have had to put up with and what the future holds if the Government proceed with the as yet unpublished White Paper.

The Government’s hopeless response is to exclude the public even more from the process, instead of improving processes now. It is a developers’ charter that is becoming the people’s nightmare. The Select Committee’s report included an interesting statistic on the planning process, stating on page 112:

“63% said they were not satisfied with their experience. 61% said they did not think that the planning process was fair.”

The Minister will know the story of Narrow Lane, but I have to repeat it. In Walsall, we had a plan. We had the site allocation document—a document on how the land will be used. There was extensive consultation and it was approved by the planning inspector in 2019. Without any notice or consultation, Walsall Council’s cabinet decided that Narrow Lane was to be the location for a Traveller transit site. The site is on a junction, so there is poor air quality and there have been a number of accidents, including one two weeks ago, when an elderly person was knocked over.

The council’s cabinet agreed on the location without even looking at the site allocation document or referring to it in the background papers, and that is what is going to happen under the Government’s proposals: they will say that they have had the consultation with the local plan, but there will be no further involvement with our constituents and councillors, and the Secretary of State will be free to decide what they want, without local involvement. Here is the warning: the decision maker can depart from the local plan. Our constituents will remain helpless under these hopeless proposals.

The Government say that this is about housing, but 1 million homes have been approved but not built. Some are built on floodplains, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) mentioned, and there is no mention of climate change. Why does the Minister not mandate that every new build should have solar panels on the roof? There are serious concerns about making planning changes.

My next point is about transparency and conflicts of interest.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy
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I am sorry to intervene so early and thank my right hon. Friend for taking my intervention. My point was about not just building on floodplains, but the importance of having flood insurance for all the new homes that are not currently eligible for the Flood Re insurance scheme.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz
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I absolutely agree.

In our case, it was agreed in the SAD that the transit site would be placed on a site that was environmentally suitable, near to a settled community—everything to integrate that community—but it happened to be in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), who used to be a councillor on Walsall Council. The portfolio holder used to work for him, but he now works for the Conservative party, registering his interest only days after the scrutiny committee meeting. Our legal advice said that there was bias, just as there was with the approval of the £1 billion Westferry Printworks in Tower Hamlets. The Secretary of State has already admitted that that was

“unlawful by reason of apparent bias.”

I have asked the Minister to investigate the earlier decision of Walsall Council’s cabinet. I ask him again: could he please do so? If he is serious about making changes, could he also mandate that every planning committee has a compulsory recorded vote for every decision that they make, as that would increase transparency and accountability?

In conclusion, we need more consultation, not less, including with all civic society and historical associations. The Town and Country Planning Association said:

“All of these reforms have a common theme of removing local voices from the process.”

Buildings and places do not exist without the people who breathe life into them, just as we have seen during the pandemic. I urge the Minister to listen to local people, give them back control and end the people’s nightmare.

17:39
William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). I have to say that I thought what happened to her in her party’s reshuffle was deeply unfair, because—and I say this gently—I do not think she was the problem at all.

There is a sense of déjà vu pervading our proceedings today. As repetition is not a cardinal sin in this House, I shall again make the points that I have made on umpteen occasions, whether in this Chamber or in Westminster Hall. Unusually, I will look at the wording of the motion as the basis of my speech, because who could possibly disagree with the sentiments expressed in it? The problem is that we agree with the principle, but politics gets in the way. I suppose it is an occupational hazard of being here, as, indeed, it is a hazard in the adversarial nature of the planning system.

If I may borrow the phrase “work together” from the motion, I see that very much epitomised by the concept of neighbourhood planning, which I want to see strengthened still further and support entirely. For those in High Lane, Marple, Marple Bridge, Mellor, Mill Brow and Compstall in my constituency, those processes are not happening quickly enough and are not strongly protected enough in law. It is a straightforward way to involve people in the system and to make them buy into it, as it were, so that they can accept the new homes that it is necessary to build.

I also borrow from the motion the phrase “necessary new homes”. Yes, but is the 300,000 target the issue? After all, parties seemed to agree with that in their manifestos. It is necessary, I venture to say, to end land banking, as a number of Members have touched on. Having a million or so units with permissions but that are not being built seems to be at the heart of the problem that we face. I look forward to the Minister bringing forward concrete proposals to, as he said, “incentivise” them, but if incentives do not work, we should, quite frankly, use the stick as well.

It is also necessary to continue to promote brownfield developments. This is a success story for the Government. In Stockport, for example, they told us that there was room for only 7,000 units on such sites, but the Government then mandated the council to provide that register and, lo and behold, that increased to 12,000, so that shows that progress is being made in that area.

We are not nimbys—that is not an accusation that should be thrown at those of us who might have some scepticism about some of the ideas that have ventured forth. Nor, indeed, are we bananas—that is, “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody”. What we want to see is a planning process—although some people might disagree—that involves and engages people and delivers the housing that we most certainly need.

17:42