I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I will come to my own thank you list shortly, but I turn first to his report card. He really sounds as if he has been marking his own homework—or perhaps he has been on a creative writing course, I don’t know. Contrary to what he says, the Government’s past year has been so chaotic that if I were going to give them a report that covered any more than the past week, we would have to sit through recess. If they wanted to be graded, it would be Fs across the board. It would take a lot more than summer school and their own lacklustre education catch-up plan before we saw any improvements.
The Government are clearly desperate for a summer recess, but I am afraid that for the rest of us it is another summer of chaos, thanks to them: 1 million children off school last week, businesses facing closure, supermarket shelves empty, millions forced to isolate over the summer— and they will not be able to do so from a country residence—and now more chaos in the sporting arena, as Australia and New Zealand have pulled out of the rugby league world cup on safety grounds. Can the Leader of the House please confirm that it will go ahead and it will be safe?
All this, and the Government still cannot make up their mind about whether to follow the NHS app or about who is exempt. On Sunday, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor clearly thought that it was one rule for them and another for everyone else. The Minister for Investment wrote to businesses saying that the NHS app was an “advisory tool”, and the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) said the same on Tuesday morning, but then No. 10 came out and said that it is crucial people isolate when told to do so. Yesterday, the Prime Minister—the Chequers one, Zooming in for PMQs—offered no answers, so for the avoidance of doubt, will the Leader of the House please clarify what the Government’s position actually is?
On mask wearing and social distancing, which is still Government guidance, people outside and inside this place have noticed the difference between the Government and Opposition Benches at Prime Minister’s questions. Clearly some people on the Government side do not seem to note that the Government’s own rules are encouraging us to wear masks and socially distance in enclosed spaces—it is clearly one rule for them and another for the rest of us.
Amid all this chaos, we must not forget that more than 150,000 people have died of covid. I met some of the grieving families yesterday and saw the photographs of 650 people—one for every constituency, just a fraction of the total number of deaths. The families are still desperately waiting for a public inquiry. The Government’s mistakes throughout the pandemic must never be repeated. The former Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), certainly has the time to appear before an inquiry. Will the Leader of the House please schedule time for a debate on that in the first week back?
I turn to the Government’s missing-in-action social care plan. All we have had is rumours of a national insurance hike to pay for it. I have heard one argument that that
“will hit…public sector workers…and someone earning £32,000 will pay exactly the same as someone earning £132,000.”—[Official Report, 17 April 2002; Vol. 383, c. 667.]
Those are not my words, but the words of the Prime Minister. Why has he changed his mind? The Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Health Secretary have not denied the reports of a national insurance hike, but there was more chaos this morning when the Business Secretary seemed to be saying that he did not see how there could be one. Two years after the Prime Minister first promised the social care plan, will the Leader of the House confirm when it will finally be published?
The Nationality and Borders Bill had its Second Reading this week. We have heard lots about a broken asylum system from Conservative Members, but they are the ones who have broken it. In the past year alone, 33,000 people were waiting more than 12 months for an initial decision on their asylum claim, and many were in my constituency—10 times more than in 2010. The appalling crime of people trafficking must be stopped, but the Bill will not do that. It fails on its own terms because there are no commitments on refugee resettlement or family reunion and, despite a lot of rhetoric, safe routes have not been properly reopened. The Dubs scheme closed after having settled just a fraction of the 3,000 children promised. In March this year, just 25 refugees were resettled—so much for safe and legal routes. We have already had the cuts to international aid rammed through. The Bill further undermines the UK’s efforts to tackle the forces of poverty, war and violence that drive people from their homes. It criminalises those who had no other choice. The Home Secretary should think again.
Over the past year, the Leader of the House has kindly committed to ensuring that Members receive timely responses to ministerial correspondence. I thank him for that, but so far there seems to have been little improvement. Will he commit to sorting it out by September?
Finally, I would like to wish Team GB the very best of luck as they begin their Olympic campaign in Tokyo. My constituent Lily Owsley will be playing for the women’s hockey team. We are all very proud of her, and I will be cheering her on.
I would like to thank all the wonderful staff who have kept this place going in exceptionally difficult circumstances. It has been a very difficult year, and I hope everyone can have a peaceful and safe summer.