I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
I thank all those who ensured that Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday constituency events passed off safely.
I want to ask the Leader of the House about two issues. First, before the ink is even dry on the King’s Speech, the Prime Minister has announced emergency legislation—you could not make it up! The Supreme Court ruling against the Government was as damning as it was clear. It concluded that deep and institutional issues in Rwanda make it not a safe country. That should not have come as a surprise to the Government, because they had been warned for months. The Prime Minister bet the house that he would win and he lost. Before his new legislative programme has even got under way, we have more desperate wheezes to salvage his sinking plan: a new treaty, which could take weeks of parliamentary time to ratify; and new laws, which a former Supreme Court judge branded “discreditable”. Why did the Home Secretary not say anything about that to Parliament yesterday? It is yet another announcement to the media and not to this place.
Will the Leader of the House tell us more about how this is all going to work? What legal effect will this emergency legislation have? When will we see it? How much parliamentary time does she think this is all going to take? What will be dropped from the Government’s recently announced Bills to make way for this? If the Government are so confident that this is what it will take, why did they not do it months ago instead of sitting around waiting for this judgment, as though Parliament had not spent weeks and weeks considering these issues and legislating to deal with them? The Government could have amended the Illegal Migration Act 2023 instead, could they not? Or was the former Home Secretary right when she said that the Government
“failed to prepare any…credible plan B”?
Was the new Home Secretary right when he said yesterday that he did not see a case for coming out of international agreements? Or does the Leader of the House agree with the Prime Minister that we could do so? These are desperation tactics to try to make the Government look as though they are doing something, when the truth is that this is a failed, unworkable and costly plan that leaves their pledge to stop the boats stranded.
Secondly, the Prime Minister seemingly could not find a suitable candidate to be Foreign Secretary from among his own MPs and instead appointed David Cameron to the House of Lords. At a time of war in Europe, a horrifying conflict in Israel and Gaza, and threats from China, Iran and elsewhere, elected Members here are now unable to hold the Foreign Secretary to account. I agree entirely with you, Mr Speaker, that this House must be able to scrutinise his work effectively, because, let us be honest, there is a lot to hold him accountable for: his links with China, which the Intelligence and Security Committee said may have been “engineered” by the Chinese state; his policy towards China, famously drinking pints with President Xi and hailing a “golden era”; and his involvement with Greensill Capital, which was described by the Treasury Committee as a “significant lack of judgment”, but none the less made him personally millions of pounds richer. The Government proposal that the Minister for Development and Africa, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), will stand in is entirely insufficient.
The last time the House was in this situation, Conservative Members were furious and demanded that questions must be answered in this place. The then Labour Government were set to bring in the recommendations of the Procedure Committee at the time. Does the Leader of the House agree that we should immediately dust off that report and bring forward a motion to put its recommendations in place quickly? They include regular accountability sessions for the Foreign Secretary in Westminster Hall as a starter. Will she do that before we are next due to hear from the Foreign Secretary?
Finally, can the Leader of the House confirm whether the appointment of David Cameron has been approved by the independent adviser on ministerial interests? If not, when will that be done? Or is this another case of making the wrong call, such as when the Prime Minister appointed his first Deputy Prime Minister, his first Home Secretary and his first Minister without Portfolio, all of whom faced serious allegations that later led to their departures? This is another poor judgment from a weak Prime Minister, drifting to defeat.