All 21 Parliamentary debates in the Commons on 18th Apr 2024

House of Commons

Thursday 18th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Thursday 18 April 2024
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock

Prayers

Thursday 18th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
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]

Oral Answers to Questions

Thursday 18th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The Secretary of State was asked—
Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. What steps her Department has taken to reduce barriers to physical activity in lower-income families.

Lucy Frazer Portrait The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Lucy Frazer)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Getting people active is absolutely vital, particularly those who are not active at the moment, which will include those from low-income families. That is why we have a sport strategy to get 3.5 million people more active. It is why we are investing around £400 million in grassroots sports facilities up and down the country, including £4 million in Newcastle upon Tyne Central. We are ensuring that that money is targeted particularly on the most deprived neighbourhoods.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope the Secretary of State will join me in congratulating Newcastle United women on their promotion to the championship. This season, they have helped inspire more than 300 young girls to take part in Newcastle United Foundation’s Premier League Kicks sessions, but with a third of young people in Newcastle inactive and our childhood obesity rates the highest in the region and among the highest in the country, we cannot leave it all to the foundation. How frequently does the Secretary of State meet the Department for Education to ensure that disadvantaged young people have access to sporting opportunities in schools? Specifically, what comparison has she made between sporting facilities in the state and private school sectors?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a really important area, and I congratulate the Newcastle United women on their success and, indeed, all women taking part in sport. That is why, through the future Lionesses fund, we have invested £30 million for 30 pitches across the country to make sure that women get more activity and more opportunities to take part in sport. The specific question was about engagement with the Department for Education, which I have regularly. In fact, it sits on the taskforce I was talking about to get more people active, as do other Departments. We all need to work together to make sure we get more sport in school, more people active and equal opportunities for young girls in schools across the country.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

More than 1 million girls who considered themselves sporty while at primary school drop out of sport as teenagers. I was one of those girls, and I did not do any sport from puberty until my late 40s, when I discovered running. This weekend, I will be running my second London marathon in aid of Bristol Refugee Rights—feel free to donate. On this Government’s watch, inequality between girls and boys on physical activity has got worse, with 22% fewer girls than boys taking part in team sports. I do not want any tepid words about things the Secretary of State says she is committed to. We have 860,000 girls missing out on the joy of physical activity—why?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope the shadow Secretary of State does very well on Sunday, and I wish her the best of luck. I am absolutely committed—these are not just warm words—to ensuring that more girls and women get involved in sport. I say that they are not just warm words because we have a plethora of policies already in play on this issue, whether that is: investing in football and working with Karen Carney on her women’s football review; building pitches to ensure that girls and women have priority access to sport; the £400 million for multi-sport facilities, which goes across the country; or the taskforce that I talked about, which will get 1 million children more active. We are particularly prioritising people who are inactive at the moment, which unfortunately does include girls.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to ask question 3. [Interruption.] Will the Secretary of State answer the question and allow the shadow Minister to come in?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can you sit down, please? Question 2 has been withdrawn. We are now at question 3.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What discussions her Department has had with the music industry on taking steps to help reduce ticket prices.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our Department speaks regularly to industry stakeholders about how to make sure that live music continues to reach a wide range of audiences. Ultimately, ticket pricing strategies are a matter for event organisers and ticketing platforms, but they have to comply with the relevant laws to ensure price transparency, allowing consumers to make a fair and informed decision.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Whether it is on music or other entertainment, this Government have consistently failed to act in the interest of fans when it comes to ticket touting. Last year, they rejected the recommendations and warnings of the Competition and Markets Authority to strengthen legislation and protect consumers from illegal reselling practices in the secondary ticketing market. Will the Minister concede that the problem has got much worse for fans? When will the Government finally put a stop to that?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The Government brought in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was strengthened by the Digital Economy Act 2017, which brought in anti-bots regulation that dealt with some of those secondary ticketing issues. It is a tricky problem to solve. We are trying to do so through those regulations, but if there is more that we can do, we will look into that.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. The hon. Member complained about the other question, but it is not my fault that no Government Members have stood to ask a supplementary question. I keep a political balance, and I am not going to break that for him. I call Thangam Debbonaire.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ticket touts are a scourge on our live music industry. Secondary ticketing websites inflate prices and pocket the profits, which makes cultural and sporting events unaffordable for many families and damages the relationship between fans, artists and venues. While the Government fail to act, Labour has committed to tackling soaring ticketing prices on the secondary market. Surely the Minister agrees that only Labour will put fans back at the heart of music and cultural events.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Surely the hon. Member would not expect me to agree with such a ludicrous statement. We brought in laws and we have anti-bot regulations, and we have had ticket touts arrested for their activities. I know that Labour has brought forward its own proposal—effectively a price cap on resale—which we do not think is workable. We have seen that in Ireland, and it simply increases fraudulent activity; it does not deliver for fans. We simply do not believe that what she is proposing will make any difference.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

4. What steps her Department is taking to help the heritage sector reach net zero.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Earlier this year, we published a review of the barriers faced by owners of historic homes to reducing their energy consumption. It made a number of commitments across planning, skills and finance to assist the heritage sector on its journey to net zero, including consulting on the role of local listed building consent orders to drive change at the local level.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In 2022, North Tyneside’s world heritage site Segedunum was successful in accessing funds through the museums estate and development fund for urgent repairs. That will contribute to reducing the site’s carbon footprint. Currently, other than the Heritage Fund and potential regional government funding, there are no other sources of funding that would help cultural and heritage sites meet climate change targets. What are the Government doing directly to ensure that heritage sites can be resilient against climate change and have sustainable futures?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for raising that issue. She talked about one of the substantial funds that we have to help repair and restore museums, heritage sites and other activities. I am glad that that is making a big difference in her constituency. We have been looking into the important area of how historic buildings can reduce their energy consumption. It is obviously difficult, since 2% of buildings in the UK are listed. We want to help them to reduce their energy consumption, which is a particular challenge for owners of historic homes. Historic England has guidance to help museums, and we will look at what more we can do.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

When it comes to valuable heritage assets, I am really concerned about those housed in the grounds of our many military estates which are not bound by any of the obligations to maintain and care for them. In many cases, the Ministry of Defence and others are pursuing a policy of managed decline, which is allowing those valuable heritage assets to rot under our very noses. May I encourage the Minister—in fact, the Secretary of State—to speak with Ministers in the Ministry of Defence to challenge that policy and see what can be done to address it? I give her advance warning that I am keen to look at that as part of a Select Committee inquiry.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. It is something that we support when an asset is in the community rather than on the existing military estate. I recently visited the battle of Britain bunker at RAF Uxbridge, where there has been an amazing partnership with the local council. She raised an issue specifically about MOD sites that are still in use, which we shall be very happy to look into for her.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Heritage Alliance estimates in its refreshed manifesto that the UK needs to double the number of conservation-skilled retrofit workers if we are to meet our net zero targets by 2050. Our built environment is at risk, yet the Government have stalled on training and have no plan to upskill the next generation. Labour will change the apprenticeship levy, making it more flexible to ensure that workers have the skills they need for the future. What is the Minister doing to meet the workforce challenge of retrofitting our heritage buildings?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our Department has a huge number of initiatives under way to help people to deal with skills shortages, not just in the heritage sector but in the creative industries. The Secretary of State and I were discussing that with the Creative Industries Council just this week. One of the challenges that we face is the dynamism of the workforce and the need to ensure that it has the specific skills of the kind that the hon. Lady mentioned. We are looking at bootcamps and T-levels, which are much more practical vocational skills. I am happy to look into and discuss with the noble Lord Parkinson what more we can do with the heritage sector.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. What recent discussions she has had with the National League on the financial sustainability of Torquay United Football Club.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I share my hon. Friend’s concerns about the financial issues facing Torquay United. I urge all parties to find a swift solution to this distressing situation. The Government are seeking to support the professional game through the Football Governance Bill, which will establish an independent football regulator.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister knows, recent weeks have been difficult for Torquay United fans, with the club entering into administration following years of fans struggling to get answers from the owner, and a completely flawed plan for a new stadium, which made no progress whatsoever. What role will preventing the circumstances that have dragged down Torquay United and other clubs play in future developments in how the game is governed?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree that meaningful engagement with fans is crucial. I want to put on record my thanks to the Torquay United Supporters Trust for its action to support the club and the fans. I share the concerns about the financial situation right across the game. That is exactly why the Bill will give powers to the regulator, which will be able to monitor and enforce financial regulation and deal with club ownership, fan engagement and club heritage issues, to ensure that clubs are protected for the very fans who are their bedrock.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the multi-sport grassroots facilities programme in funding new sports facilities.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the multi-sport grassroots facilities programme in funding new sports facilities.

Lucy Frazer Portrait The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Lucy Frazer)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Between 2021 and 2025, the Government have committed more than £325 million to grassroots sports sites across the whole of the UK. That is part of our commitment to ensure every community has the facilities it needs. So far, almost 2,400 sites have been supported, creating more opportunities for people of all backgrounds across the country to get active.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thanks to the UK Government’s multi-sport grassroots facilities programme, almost £100,000 has been invested across Anglesey to improve sports facilities at Holyhead Hotspur, Plas Arthur in Llangefni, Tŷ Croes and Bodedern. Sport helps families across Ynys Môn be more active, healthier and happier. Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking Ynys Môn gymnastics club, Barton Dance and Drama Academy, Ynys Môn Celts basketball club and all those working hard to make my summer activities fair at the Canolfan Holyhead on 8 June a success?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is fantastic to hear about the community events taking place in the hon. Friend’s constituency. I am delighted that she has put together such an active and exciting event, and I wish her all the best on 8 June. Such events bring communities together. I wish her and everybody a wonderful time.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Cromwell Athletic, who play at Mary Ann Meadows in my constituency, have had to cancel almost 70% of their grass pitch games this season because conditions have made the ground simply unplayable. The pitch improvement programme shows that we need around eight 3G pitches in Warrington to cope with demand. Could my right hon. Friend set out what support is available to clubs with significant junior membership? I invite her back to Warrington to see some of the teams who are struggling to access 3G pitches, to talk about how we can help them.

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Through our investment via the Football Foundation in England, we are actively supporting teams such as Cromwell Athletic up and down the country to get new artificial grass pitches. We funded the goalposts at Barrow Hall Primary School and put in a new artificial grass pitch at Cardinal Newman Catholic High School. It was a pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss this issue further.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of bringing forward legislative proposals to regulate the use of national symbols by commercial and other entities.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The correct use of many national symbols, such as royal names, state emblems, the royal arms and the Government coat of arms, is already subject to Government regulation.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think many people would be quite angered by the way certain national organisations have tried to change our national flags, the cross of St George and the Union Jack. Is it not time that we protected and cherished our national symbols by appointing a Minister of the Crown from the Cabinet Office to oversee that? Will the Minister also look at the Union Flag Bill of 2008, which would enshrine in legislation the protection of our cherished national flag?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Union Jack should be a unifying symbol for the whole country. It has looked the way it has for the past several hundred years and I see no point in messing around with it. I am not sure that we need legislation; we just need some common sense.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Would Ministers be equally keen to prevent organisations, such as political parties, using images of His Majesty the King in their propaganda?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know how to answer that question, if I am honest! [Laughter.] Our party has always been proud to use the Union Jack, because we are a proud Unionist party, and we will always be proud to support the royal family.

Ian Lavery Portrait Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What steps her Department is taking to support charities and voluntary organisations in the context of increases in the cost of living.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government are investing millions to support charities across England with cost of living pressures, and that includes the Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund, which is awarding critical support to frontline services.

Ian Lavery Portrait Ian Lavery
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What does it say about the state of the nation when, during the worst cost of living crisis in living memory, charities and voluntary organisations such as Calmer Therapy in the Wansbeck constituency are struggling simply to make ends meet? Like many other charities, Calmer Therapy is having to do more with less. It is facing more pressures and continued pressures, with crumbling buildings and excessive bills. What conversations has the Minister had with the Chancellor about plans to support charities and those who are desperately relying on them to survive?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to put on record my thanks to the charities up and down the country that have done some incredible work over some of the most challenging times. I recognise that when costs are rising and donations are falling, demand for their services often increases. That is why I had conversations with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and why we secured a significant package of £100 million to support those charities. It was welcomed by the sector. I am grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for helping us to get that money out as quickly as possible to so many charities around the country.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What recent discussions she has had with representatives of football clubs and associations on ensuring the wellbeing of football players, in the context of their increased risk of dementia.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have discussed the issue of dementia with the Professional Footballers’ Association, specifically around the Premier League’s promise to allocate funding towards the new brain health fund for football players impacted by dementia. I am pleased that the fund was launched in September last year, and I will be writing to the PFA shortly to seek its assurances on the current workings of the fund and how the PFA is engaging with former players.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My constituent is the former Celtic, Chelsea, Blackburn and, more importantly, Norwich City football legend, Chris Sutton. He has recently brought to my attention the very distressing fact that former professional footballers are four times more likely to die of CTE—chronic traumatic encephalopathy—dementia than the wider population due to repeated head impacts. Chris is just one of a group of former players who are championing these issues and pushing for better provisions to support the wellbeing of ex-players and their families. Can the Minister reassure me that the football industry will create a properly financed dementia fund to help players, and of course their widows, who are affected by the CTE dementia scandal?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right to raise this incredibly important issue, and I want to record my thanks to Chris Sutton and all those involved in this important work. We welcome the practical support that those involved in sports give former players in these circumstances. The PFA and Premier League’s brain health fund has an initial amount of £1 million in financial support for former players and their families, to improve their quality of life. The fund will remain in place until the PFA and the Premier League establish a charity that will involve a great many football stakeholders so we can provide a much longer-term support vehicle. I can reassure him that I take this area of work incredibly seriously and will continue to put pressure on those involved.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and hope we will hear more in that regard.

The number of children who are vaping continues to rise at an alarming rate. Statistics from 2022 show that current use—within the last 30 days—among 15-year-olds was 25%, but the percentage will obviously be significantly higher now. We know about some of the harms to which vaping leads, which should cause us grave concern, but we certainly do not know about all of them. In that context, does the Minister think it is a good thing that the strips of football clubs such as Blackburn Rovers are sponsored by vaping companies? If not, will he join me in seeking to change that?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that there have been many discussions about sponsorship within various sporting bodies. It is for the individual clubs and the football authorities themselves to set guidelines of that kind, but the hon. Lady has raised an interesting point and, if she will allow me, I will give it further consideration.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Everyone deserves to feel safe playing the sport that they love. In the context of, sadly, too many former professional players suffering from dementia, what steps is the Department taking to ensure that sports governing bodies have the guidance they need to ensure the safety of professional players?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady has raised an important point, as have other Members. The Government are leading work on concussion in particular. We have worked with stakeholders and developed the first guidelines to be distributed to the grassroots, which have also aided professional sports. The evaluation of this is ongoing and will be invaluable in helping us to improve sport-related education and health. We have also convened a sports concussion research group to identify the questions that still need answering, as well as an innovation and technology panel, whose members are looking at the practical, technical solutions that will aid safety and mitigate concussion. However, as I have said, this is an incredibly important area and one on which we will focus.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12. What her planned timetable is for responding to the consultation on the statutory levy on gambling operators.

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The statutory levy represents a generational change in funding arrangements, and we have to consider properly the evidence provided during the consultation. We will publish a response setting out our final decision soon, but we remain on track to introduce the levy via secondary legislation this summer.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has been months since the consultation closed, with no response, and about 10 other consultations relating to the White Paper are also awaiting a response. Is the Minister trying to kick change into the long grass, and if not, will he please confirm when the responses will be published?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I reject that accusation. There are 62 proposals in the White Paper, half of which will be finalised as a result of the consultation or are complete. A further three consultations have ended, and we are now analysing those. The levy is a priority, because we want the funds to be directed where they are needed most, on the basis of evidence, and we are working at pace to ensure that happens. I also point out that it was this Government who introduced it.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13. If she will take steps with relevant stakeholders to help provide spaces for artists to create and display their work.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

High-quality affordable workspaces are essential to ensuring that we can retain our finest creative talent. The Government are committed to encouraging local authorities and property owners to make spaces available for cultural activities. Arts Council England is already supporting artists’ spaces through funding and brokering partnerships. The national portfolio boasts numerous workspaces that receive revenue funding, such as Spike Island and Yorkshire Artspace, which offer space for artists to create work and gallery space for exhibiting new work.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and many other parts of my constituency are blessed with an abundance of artists, painters, sculptors and others, but they have very few places where they can create their work—they need more studio space and more workspaces —and even fewer places in which to exhibit. Providing such spaces should be essential—it aids economic activity, increases footfall and increases wellbeing—so how can we ensure that it is essential, as the Minister said, and not an afterthought? It really does matter.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for raising his concerns about the creative community in Leighton Buzzard—it sounds like a buzzing creative community. As I say, we support creative industries primarily through Arts Council England, which has initiatives that look at workspaces. I encourage organisations in his constituency and community to make applications for grants, because there are specific funds available.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Arts venues are vital to our local culture and our communities, but they are also hotbeds for new talent to display or perform their latest works, which is critical to the UK’s creative sector. Pubs are increasingly used for showing artworks as much as they are for performing music—think of pubs such as the Crown Inn back in the day, or the Hope and Anchor in Islington. That is why it is so important that we save pubs such as the Punch Bowl in Warwick, which a developer wants to convert into a house. Last year was the worst year for the closure of music venues. What is the Minister doing to stop that rate of closure?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about grassroots music venues, which is why we have a specific fund set aside to help save some of the most treasured community venues. We also have the Localism Act 2011, which allows communities to designate a particular community asset of value, giving communities time to raise funds to save those kinds of assets. It is something that we are talking about a lot with music venue groups, and we are also looking at giving them help to buy the freeholds of properties so that those kinds of assets can stay within communities and remain a talent pipeline, as he suggests, for many years to come.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14. What recent discussions she has had with the Premier League and English Football League on the financial stability of football clubs.

Lucy Frazer Portrait The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Lucy Frazer)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my hon. Friend will know, the Football Governance Bill was introduced to Parliament last month, and it will help with the financial sustainability of football as a whole. I have met the Premier League, the English Football League, many stakeholders and parliamentarians to ensure that the legislation is appropriately drafted. I have met over 90 clubs and senior executives from the leagues many times.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. We do not have to look too far across the east midlands to see that clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City and Leicester City have found themselves in some form of difficulty, so I welcome the Government’s plans to introduce a regulator to bring some stability to the football pyramid. However, how do we ensure that we strike a balance so that we do not strangle and over-regulate the best league in the world, the premiership?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As my hon. Friend mentions, the Premier League is world leading. It is worth £7 billion, and we absolutely want to ensure that it stays first and world class. That is why the legislation takes a proportionate approach. It takes on board the fact that the regulator will have to work very closely with the leagues, including the Premier League. We call it an advocacy-first approach, and having worked very carefully with the team, I am very confident that the legislation takes a balanced and proportionate approach.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Football is nothing without the fans, and the Secretary of State may recall that a while ago I mentioned to the Sport Minister the idea of a postponement promise. That was in response to a spate of fixtures that had been cancelled at very short notice. The Minister said that he would raise it with the EFL, and I understand that he did so. I am grateful for that, but I wonder whether the Secretary of State agrees that we need to keep the momentum going forward. Will she and the Minister continue to work with the EFL to come up with a solution that works for fans?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member is absolutely right about the importance of fans and communities to football, which is why the Government are bringing forward legislation to protect fans across the country. My junior Minister is a valued colleague who supports me and works very hard across his portfolio. I know he has raised this issue with the EFL, and I will talk to him about it.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd)  (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T1.   If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Lucy Frazer Portrait The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Lucy Frazer)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This Government recognise just how important the arts are, which is why the Chancellor used the Budget to extend, introduce and make permanent a range of tax reliefs to drive growth and investment in our creative industries. We have provided tax reliefs worth £1 billion over the next five years for museums, galleries, theatres, orchestras, independent film productions, film studios and the visual effects industry. In addition, as Sunday draws near, I want to wish all those running and taking part in the London marathon the best of luck—in particular, the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire).

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

With Monday marking the 35th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, we will always remember the 97 victims who were killed unlawfully. Does the Minister agree that, in their memory, we must take a stand against those who think it is acceptable to ridicule this disaster in order to rile up rival teams? If so, what is she doing to tackle this issue of so-called tragedy chanting?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Tragedy chanting is absolutely abhorrent and has no place in football, or indeed in any sport. The Government fully support the football leagues and the police in their efforts to identify and deal with the culprits. Tragedy chanting can be prosecuted as a public order offence, with guilty individuals being issued with football banning orders preventing them from attending matches in the future.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford)  (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the amazing success of Romford football club, which has now got through to the FA vase final at Wembley on 11 May? Given the proud Essex town that Romford is, does she agree that BBC Essex and the regional TV and radio channels really should promote that in their broadcasting, instead of saying that we are not Essex? Does she agree that we should be given that prominence?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I extend my congratulations to Romford football club on reaching the final of the FA vase—it is a wonderful achievement and I wish the team the best of luck at Wembley. On the issue of BBC Essex, as my hon. Friend will know, the BBC is operationally and editorially independent of the Government, but I know that my hon. Friend has raised his concerns directly with the BBC, and I am sure that it will get back to him.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesman, John Nicolson.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since we last met, the media regulator Ofcom has again reprimanded GB News for breaching impartiality rules. Ofcom says that news programmes should not be presented by politicians. The Tory Benches host a plethora of Ofcom rule-breaching MPs who leave this place to freelance as pretendy news presenters on a channel that spreads conspiracy theories and disinformation, and that undermines Ofcom. I am on the side of journalism, not disinformation. Does the Minister agree with me that GB News should drop the propaganda and obey the regulator?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am in favour of media plurality; I think it is important that there are channels for everybody to watch, and GB News is a very popular outlet. I think that the person to regulate GB News is Ofcom, not those on the shadow Benches.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Crewe Amateur Musicals Society opens what I am sure will be a fantastic production of “Kinky Boots” at Crewe Lyceum this evening, but I am concerned that Arts Council funding does not do enough to support existing groups and activities. As well as joining me in wishing the Crewe Amateur Musicals Society good luck this evening, can my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss Arts Council funding?

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wish the Crewe Amateur Musicals Society the very best of luck with their performance. We channel a very large amount of money to Arts Council England. With lottery funding and Government funding, that is about £444 million every year. We also have a number of tax reliefs for the performing arts. I also encourage the groups in my hon. Friend’s constituency to apply for the latest cultural development fund round, which opened in February and supports organisations such as the one he cites.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel  Zeichner  (Cambridge)  (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2.   Cambridge has a long-established and flourishing local music scene but, as elsewhere, times are hard. The Music Venue Trust recently reported that, nationally, there have been 67 emergency cases for its experts so far in 2024. With soaring maintenance and operating costs, and with inflation meaning that the grassroots music sector is operating on a profit margin of just 0.2%, does the Minister accept that this is unsustainable for any business?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has been a particularly difficult period for a number of music venues. Obviously, we went through the pandemic and then an energy crisis, and we tried to support venues through those difficult times. We are now working very closely with the Music Venue Trust, which has access to Arts Council funding that is helping it to buy the freehold of some music venues. We also have a grassroots music fund that is helping with some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman cites, and I am sure it would be happy to look into the particularly treasured venues in his constituency.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State will be aware of the proposal by Universal Studios for a theme park in Bedfordshire—a £10 billion investment in the country. She will also be aware of the strong local support, led by Conservative Mayor Tom Wootton, so can she assure me and other Bedfordshire MPs that she is working hard with the Treasury to get a response to that proposal, and that a Government proposal will be forthcoming before the summer?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right to raise this very exciting opportunity for Bedfordshire, which I am pleased to have discussed with him. We are liaising closely with the Treasury, and I am also happy to continue liaising with my hon. Friend.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North)  (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4.   What discussions have the Government had, or would be willing to have, with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government on the prospect of Glasgow stepping in to host the 2026 Commonwealth games?

Stuart Andrew Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Stuart Andrew)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This country is proud to have hosted the Commonwealth games twice in the past decade, most recently in Birmingham. I have had conversations with the Commonwealth Games Federation on its plans, and I know it is currently considering a host of options. I will see what it comes out with before I commit to any further engagement.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the magnificent and mighty Portsmouth football club on winning League One and securing promotion to the championship this week? Does she agree with me that Pompey’s fantastic victory demonstrates the magic of football in bringing communities together, inspiring young people and encouraging health and fitness?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very pleased to congratulate Portsmouth football club on its success. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of local clubs and what they do in their communities. It is not just the match on a Saturday; it is also about what they do to encourage people to get involved in their community and to get fit and active. Going around the country, I have seen some fabulous examples of what sports clubs—not just football but rugby and cricket—do for their local areas.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon)  (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T6.   The Carney review revealed that women’s football has a long way to go on minimum professional standards, union representation, mental health support and more. Will Ministers give these recommendations parity with the changes needed in the men’s game?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to have spoken to Karen Carney on a number of occasions about her review and the importance of women’s football, and I am also pleased to take on board all her recommendations. The Government approved all the review’s recommendations, and I am pleased to chair the first implementation group, which is ensuring that the recommendations will be implemented by the Football Association and others.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since I last raised the closure of small music venues, two a week continue to close. There is now a growing consensus within the live music sector that a £1 levy should be put on large music venues and those who are making massive profits at live events. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is looking at this, and I have listened very carefully to the evidence. If it is recommended, will the Minister put in place a levy similar to the one in other countries across Europe?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are very sympathetic to that concept, which has worked well in football. We are closely watching the industry discussions about the idea of a levy that would support grassroots music venues which, as we all know, are the talent pipeline for our world-leading music industry. We do not want to see them wither, so we are watching this matter closely and I have had recent discussions with relevant organisations on it.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that question, and as others have said, brilliant grassroots music venues all over the country are struggling with spiralling costs. The Grayston Unity is one such venue that is crucial in not only ensuring access to music, but developing the skills pipeline for people working in that sector and, we hope, becoming the stars of tomorrow. What is the Minister doing to ensure that she understands, and reassures those venues that she gets, the spiralling costs they face?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have said, we have a number of initiatives under way. Arts Council funding is supporting the Music Venue Trust in relation to owning freeholds of properties and we have our supporting grassroots music fund, which has been topped up recently because of some of the issues cited by the hon. Lady. We want to try to help music venues through these difficult times, because we believe they are so valuable, not only to the talent pipeline, but in giving communities access to local music and performing opportunities. We hope that these venues will continue long into the future.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. If we have very brief questions and answers, I will try to get everybody in. I call Chi Onwurah.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The “Space Investigators” exhibition at the Great North Museum celebrates the amazing history of the north-east in designing and manufacturing telescopes. What support does the Minister offer so that regions such as ours can better understand and promote our great industrial heritage?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased that work has been going on in the hon. Lady’s constituency on these important matters. Of course, through Arts Council funding and through Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding, we support institutions across the country that support the history of, and what is going on in, their local communities, as well as arts across the country.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is the 900th anniversary of the founding of Edinburgh city and St Giles’ cathedral. Celebrations are planned to mark it, so will the Minister tell us whether the Department is going to be working with the devolved Administration and supporting the local council in celebrating that anniversary? And would she like to come and join the party?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It sounds like a superb party and I shall certainly send the invitation to Lord Parkinson, who is the ministerial lead on these issues.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

At the most recent British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, I asked the Irish Tourism Minister about their ticketing policy and its success, and they said it was very much a success. So may I suggest that rather than dismiss Labour’s proposals, the Government should look at the evidence from the Irish Government, rather than listening to outlaw companies such as Viagogo?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I spoke to officials this week about the Irish example and they were concerned that it had led to an increase in fraudulent activity. However, we will obviously keep this under review.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Omaze has had a big impact on charity fundraising. Although it is raising money for extremely good causes, does the Secretary of State agree that when people buy tickets for fundraising they should have some idea of what proportion of the money they are spending is actually going to those charities? Should we not have more transparency in this area?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will be aware that we have looked at a range of issues in relation to gambling, lotteries and society lotteries. The prize draws are an area of work we are examining at the moment to get a better understanding of what the market is like. He rightly says that it is important that people are aware of how much of the money they are spending is going to charities, and we will continue to work in this area.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent assessment the Church has made of trends in the number of families that attend a church service over the Easter period.

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Although we do not yet have confirmed numbers of worshippers for this Easter just gone, our clergy report high attendance, among all ages, at services, which supports the post-pandemic trend of people returning to services on Easter day in person to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The future of the Church is reliant on younger families attending and receiving the good news of the Holy Gospel. What assessment has the Church made of initiatives like the pupil chaplain scheme and regular “Messy Church” at All Saints Torre in achieving that?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was delighted to learn about the pupil chaplain scheme that All Saints Torre is running with Torre Church of England Academy; I will bring it to the attention of the Church nationally. The Church of England has committed £40 million since 2022 to increase provision for children and young people across the country. I thank Father Paul Jones for his service at All Saints Babbacombe and his wife, Jackie, who has led a Rainbows group at the church for many years. Their important work, which includes inspiring the next generation, has been noted and appreciated.

The hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—
Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. To ask the hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what recent discussions the committee has had with the Electoral Commission on the integrity of election processes.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The committee has regular discussions with the Electoral Commission on issues relating to electoral integrity. The commission is working to ensure upcoming elections, including those in May and the next UK parliamentary general election, are well run and command public confidence. It continues to make recommendations to UK Governments and legislatures to further safeguard the UK’s electoral system, where appropriate.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her newly acquired responsibilities in this area. I am sure she brings the same diligence and independence of mind that her father brought to matters in this House for many years. We will be well served by her.

Spotlight on Corruption wrote to the National Crime Agency in December last year highlighting the dangers of UK elections being exposed to dirty money and foreign influence. The commission no longer has powers to raise prosecutions, but it can investigate. Will the hon. Lady use her offices to bring the Electoral Commission’s attention to the Spotlight on Corruption report and see what assessment it makes of it?

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will bring the report to the attention of the Electoral Commission. The commission has said that it takes all possible steps within the current regulatory framework to prevent unlawful foreign money from entering UK politics, and it publishes information about donations to ensure transparency. It can sanction political parties that accept impermissible foreign donations. It works with the police, who can investigate unlawful foreign money entering UK politics through permissible donors. However, it cannot take enforcement action against organisations based outside the UK. The commission will continue to recommend changes to ensure voters can have greater confidence in political finance in the UK.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the Commission is taking to reduce food waste on the parliamentary estate.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The House of Commons Commission takes food waste extremely seriously. We work with organisations, such as FareShare, to use unused food and distribute it, but we also take food that is not eaten on one day and safely use it in other recipes on another day.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have probably all been to events and occasions here where the hosts have perhaps enthusiastically over-ordered. It would be useful to be assured that none of that food goes to landfill and that ways are found to reuse it. These days there are a number of initiatives and apps where venues and stores can make food available at discounted prices at the end of the day. Could that be something that could be extended to staff—obviously not to Members—particularly those who work late on the estate, so that absolutely no food in this place goes to waste?

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will always look at suggestions. I can reassure the hon. Member that our catering team recently achieved the highest mark in the Sustainable Restaurant Association “Food Made Good” rating. One of the areas that we were assessed on was our commitment to reducing food waste, but clearly we will look at the hon. Member’s suggestions and we will act on them if they have merit.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Theresa Villiers—not here.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church has taken to support family relationships, parenting and marriage since the establishment of the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households.

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The report of the joint Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households was enthusiastically received by the General Synod at its meeting in February. The Archbishops’ Council is now incorporating the report’s recommendations into the work programme.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The key messages from the Archbishops’ Commission are unambiguous: families, relationships and love matter. The No. 1 action point from the commission is

“to maximise the protective effect of families”.

What steps is the Church of England taking to achieve that in Kettering and across the whole country?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest in this important area. I can tell him that the commissioners have had meetings with Departments and with the children’s commissioner to work alongside Government to strengthen family relationships, parenting and marriage. The Church itself wants to play a more active role in this crucial area and is producing new resources to help parishes do so. I am sure he will know that, in his own constituency, St Andrew’s Church is already exemplifying much of this good work under the excellent leadership of the Reverend Tom Houston, who trained as a youth worker prior to ordination.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Same-sex couples are able to show love and be a good family as well, so why will the Church of England not recognise same-sex marriage?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member will know that this is an issue with which the General Synod continues to be involved through the living in love and faith process. We are working through these issues and the Church will have heard very clearly what he has said, and I can assure him that that work is being taken forward.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, if the Church will publish a statement on its position on amendments tabled to the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the decriminalisation of abortion before Report stage of that Bill.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Church of England believes that the foetus is a human life with the potential to develop, while recognising that there can be strictly limited conditions under which abortion may be morally preferable to any available alternative. The Church also believes that every possible support, especially by Church members, should be given to those who are pregnant and in difficult circumstances. The Church would support new clauses 15 and 34 and believes that, while women should not face criminalisation, anyone coercing a woman to have an abortion, or providing one beyond the legal limit, or supplying an abortion kit for a late-term use should be prosecuted.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the support for new clauses 15 and 34. I think the Second Church Estates Commissioner has given implicit opposition to the new clause in the name of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), but I am gobsmacked not to have had a clear statement on the criminality of terminating a pregnancy up to the moment of birth by whomsoever. Is the intention to drive us into the arms of Rome? Is he as gobsmacked as I am?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his interest in these serious issues, which, given their importance, I am sure the House will want to treat sensitively. I will convey his comments to the leadership of the Church, but just to repeat: the Church is supporting the two-week reduction in the age of viability from 24 to 22 weeks, based on the latest available evidence that foetuses do survive from 22 weeks onwards. It is also supporting protection for Down’s syndrome children to make the case that abortion beyond the legal limit should not be acceptable for such children. The Church supports the continued prosecution of medical practitioners who assist with abortions beyond the legal limit.

The hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—
Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. To ask the hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, whether the committee has had recent discussions with the Electoral Commission on the potential impact of disinformation on the integrity of elections.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The committee has had recent discussions with the Electoral Commission on the matters raised. The commission recognises the risks posed to the integrity of elections by disinformation and misinformation. It runs campaigns raising awareness of the voting process, so voters have accurate information on which to rely. The legal regime that the commission regulates is focused on ensuring that political finance is transparent and that campaigner materials include an imprint showing voters who have produced the material. It does not have a role in regulating the content of election campaign material, but encourages all campaigners to undertake their role responsibly and transparently.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s answer. Recently, we have seen a decrease in the effectiveness of search engines such as Google, with material generated by AI, which is designed to produce only things that sound like information, poisoning the well, so to speak, with a marked impact on search results. With this automation of fake news and fake oracles, what plans does the Electoral Commission have to put out guidance on AI-produced materials?

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The commission encourages all campaigners to undertake their role of influencing voters responsibly and transparently, and indeed encourages voters to think critically about the campaign materials that they see. It expects anyone using AI-generated campaign material to use it in a way that benefits open and transparent political debate, and to label it clearly so that voters know how it has been created. Campaign material must also carry an imprint telling voters who has published and paid for it. The commission’s role is to ensure that the financing of campaigns is transparent. It does not have a role in regulating the content of election campaign material, such as preventing the use of deepfakes.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. Whether the Church has taken recent steps to support the Armenian church in the old city of Jerusalem.

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Bishop of Southwark has raised this issue repeatedly in the other place over the past six months, and it remains an ongoing and very concerning issue. Only 15 days ago, an unlawful eviction was led by the Israeli police within the premises of the Armenian Patriarchate, with no court orders or permits presented.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Those of us who are good friends of Israel need to call out the violent activities of the settler movement. The Armenian Christians have enjoyed the best part of 2,000 years in their part of the old city in tranquillity. The appalling incident on 3 April was led not just by thugs but by an Israeli officer called Assaf Harel. Frankly, there was downright intimidation and an attempt to force out Armenian Christians. The Christian population in the old city has declined from 25% a century ago to just 1%. Will the Church of England stand up for Christians in the old city?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for his sustained interest in this really important issue. It would be an absolute tragedy if there were to be no Christians left in the Holy Land. The House will have heard the figures that he has just presented. The pressures facing the Armenian church exemplify those faced by other churches in Jerusalem and the west bank. The Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem is one of the custodians of the Holy Land and overseers of the four quarters of the city. The Church of England is absolutely clear that the historic settlement and the status quo of Jerusalem need to be maintained. The lack of any call for restraint from the Israeli Government is escalating tensions in Jerusalem, and that remains a great concern.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. Whether the Church provides guidance to parishes on the sale of land where there is local opposition to that sale.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

When the Church Commissioners sell land, they seek to engage all those who are affected by a sale or development. The commissioners are not aware of any land that they own being for sale in North East Bedfordshire.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his response. The word “engage” is interesting in this context. It is the case that there is a church in my constituency where there was local opposition to the sale of allotment land. Discussions were held initially with the diocese, and then at Church House in Westminster. My hon. Friend will be aware that in such discussions there is an imbalance of power, so can he assure me that there is adequate guidance to enable parishioners and local communities to combat effectively pressures to sell land where there is clearly local opposition?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I particularly agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of allotments, for which there is often a very long waiting list. The land at Henlow is owned by the diocese of St Albans, and I will ask the diocesan secretary to contact him. Of course, he can also speak to the Bishop of Bedford and the Bishop of St Albans, whom we both know well. Charity law places a fiduciary duty on organisations to gain best value from the sale of their assets. That may be an issue that my hon. Friend would want to raise with the relevant Government Minister, in the context of what is happening in his constituency.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What recent assessment the commissioners have made of the contribution of church schools to education in (a) Harrow East constituency and (b) England.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Church of England educates more than 1 million children in its 4,700 schools, which includes 40% of all primary schools in England. Church schools in Harrow East do incredible work, and among them is St John’s School in Stanmore, which has many children for whom English is not their first language and who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. That school achieves a reading progress score of 4.5 compared with the average score in the rest of the local authority of 1.1. That excellent achievement is to be warmly commended.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very proud of the fact that parents in Harrow East have the option of a Church education or the religious-ethos education of their choice. However, as we all know, the birth rate is dropping, as is the number of children who need primary places in Harrow. There is therefore a direct threat to the rolls at St John’s and other religious-based schools, which may become unviable. What action is the Church taking to enable young people, particularly those who have recently come to this country, who may be of a Christian faith but not necessarily of the Church of England faith, to identify with a Church school and get that sort of education?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It may surprise my hon. Friend and the House that there are some Church of England schools in which all the children are from other faiths. That is because Church schools are community schools and welcome all. I will draw his concerns about falling roll numbers both to the diocese of London and to the national education department of the Church of England. However, in my experience, parents have a pretty good nose for finding their way to a good school. The results at St John’s, about which I have just told the House, should help in this case.

Business of the House

Thursday 18th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
10:35
Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The business for the week commencing 22 April will include:

Monday 22 April—Consideration of a Lords message to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, followed by debate on a motion on hospice funding. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 23 April—Second Reading of the Football Governance Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords messages to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Wednesday 24 April—Remaining stages of the Renters (Reform) Bill, followed by motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism.

Thursday 25 April—Debate on a motion on Lesbian Visibility Week, followed by debate on a motion on the Buckland review of autism employment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 26 April—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 29 April includes:

Monday 29 April—Consideration in Committee of the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill.

Tuesday 30 April—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

Wednesday 1 May—Remaining stages of the Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords].

Thursday 2 May—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the early May bank holiday at the conclusion of business on 2 May and return on Tuesday 7 May.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I take this opportunity to put on record my deepest sympathies to Mr Speaker on the loss of his dear father, Doug Hoyle? I remember him as a real character and an important figure in the Labour movement over many decades, serving both as an MP and then as a peer. He was a proud northerner and represented the traditions of the Labour movement. I know that he was incredibly proud of Mr Speaker, and I know how much Mr Speaker and Cath cared for him in his later years. My thoughts are with them both.

The attacks by Iran on Israel have rightly been condemned by all sides of the House. Thankfully, its intentions were thwarted, and we join together in calling for restraint and de-escalation in the aftermath. We cannot let those recent events deter or distract from international efforts to bring about a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and create the conditions for a lasting two-state solution.

As global conflict increases, it is unacceptable that the Government have rejected recommendations from the cross-party Procedure Committee for the Foreign Secretary to be accountable in this House. It is simply not the case that he or the Government have been “forward-leaning” in that regard, as the Leader of the House has said. Statements by his now deputy—the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell)—have been few and far between, and his appearances at Select Committees have all but dried up.

Many times in these exchanges, the Leader of the House has assured us that Members would have the opportunity to question the Foreign Secretary, saying that

“When the Procedure Committee brings forward measures… I am sure those measures will be put in place”—[Official Report, 30 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 1061.],

so why has she now blocked that—or did she lose the argument in Government? She seems to struggle to be heard in Government lately. I know that she is keen to talk about defence spending too, although apparently No. 10 blocked her. Does she want to take the opportunity today? I know that she, like me, will be concerned to hear that the UK now spends less on defence as a percentage of GDP than when Labour was last in office.

The Leader of the House is not listened to when it comes to legislative business before the House, either. I was really puzzled that she was unable to support a flagship piece of Government legislation, as she apparently thinks it is unworkable. Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, but is it not the job of the Leader of the House to ensure that any Government legislation tabled is well drafted, thought through, and will achieve its aims? She chairs the Government’s legislation committee, does she not? She has more influence than nearly anybody else on the drafting of a Bill, so what went wrong?

After our Easter break, we have returned to groundhog day. It might be a new term, but it is the same old story: more decent Conservative Members announcing that they are standing down; Treasury Ministers hitting the airwaves and getting the numbers wrong; a weak Prime Minister who cannot face down his own party, running scared from his own legislation and refusing to say how his cuts to national insurance will be funded; the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), still unable to show any contrition for her actions directly costing mortgage holders hundreds of pounds a month; Cabinet splits and rival factions all on open display, with ever more extreme positions and platforms taken; and yet more Tory sleaze and scandal.

Today’s revelations about the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) are extraordinary. They raise very serious questions about the misuse of funds and the pressure put on others to facilitate it. Perhaps more importantly, they also raise questions about how these issues are handled by the Conservative party. There is a worrying pattern of cover-up and inaction, so can the Leader of the House shed some light? What did the Chief Whip, the Prime Minister and the party chairman, the right hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), know and when? Why did it take the publication of the story today for the Whip to be removed? Has this matter been referred to the police, and if not, why not?

It seems that yet again, like with the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) and so many other recent cases of sleaze and scandal, the Government are too weak to act decisively, and instead choose to brush things under the carpet. The truth is that they have given up on governing, and given up on winning the next election: it is all about saving their own skin and the inevitable leadership battle. I can tell the Leader of the House that we on the Labour Benches have been there before, and it does not end well. The public do not easily forgive politicians who put party before country and do not focus relentlessly on fixing the problems they face.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join the hon. Lady in formally conveying my sympathies to Mr Speaker on the loss of his father; I have spoken to him privately, and written to him as well. I also congratulate 3 Dads Walking on being awarded the petition of the year by the Petitions Committee for their important work on suicide prevention, and wish all colleagues—18 of them in total—and everyone else running the marathon good luck.

On Monday evening, the very special Jewish festival of Passover begins. Like their ancestors before them, Jewish families around the world will gather around their Seder tables to retell the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. However, this year many of them will be leaving an empty seat open at those tables for those still held captive by Hamas in Gaza. I hope this will be the last Jewish holiday where they are unable to celebrate with their families, and wish chag sameach to all those celebrating. I also thank all hon. Members for their resolve and support with regard to Israel’s security—that is an important message that we send from this House.

The hon. Lady mentions the issue of the Foreign Secretary, and the Government’s work in that regard, being accountable to this House. Since the Foreign Secretary was appointed, we have had eight Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office statements, three prime ministerial statements on foreign affairs, a general debate in Government time on the situation in the Red sea and 17 Westminster Hall debates responded to by FCDO ministers, as well as oral questions in both Houses. We are sticking with the usual precedents of both Houses.

The hon. Lady asks me to comment on defence, and I am very happy to compare this Government’s record with the last Labour Government’s record. We have had the largest uplift to the defence budget since the end of the cold war. When we came into office, we inherited a defence budget and equipment programme with a £71 billion black hole, on Royal United Services Institute figures. I remember from my own constituency that Portsmouth, Faslane and Plymouth were having to state the case to continue to be naval bases in this country. The previous Labour Government knew their record with members of the armed forces was poor, because in 2005 they disenfranchised all of them by changing the rules on voter registration.

The hon. Lady points to the vote on smoking. I think free votes in this place on such matters are good. However, whatever our difference of opinion, in future years I am hopeful there will be fewer fag packets around on which Labour economic teams can do their sums, and I think that is a jolly good thing.

Labour Members seem to be continuing to push their line on national insurance contributions. Good look to them in that respect, but let me just point out some of the reasons why it will not get traction. National insurance contributions receipts do not determine the NHS budget or pensions, it is only the Labour party that has cut the NHS budget and it is actually Labour’s policy—at least, it was when I came into the Chamber—to support our tax cuts. I hope that is helpful information for the hon. Lady.

The hon. Lady mentioned some very serious allegations and other incidents that came to light during the recess. These are very serious matters and some of them are under police investigation, so she would not expect me to comment on them, but we take these matters very seriously. We have taken action again this week to improve online safety and other matters.

The deepfake phenomenon is more widespread than we might think, and the public may well be fooled into thinking that something is the case when it is not, or that a person they know is manifestly different, and we need to expose such scams. The hon. Lady talks about defence, and someone might be tempted to believe a person is committed to this nation’s nuclear deterrent, but note that, in reality, the same person was content to serve in the Cabinet of the last Labour leader and that six of his Front Benchers voted to end our nuclear deterrent. They might think that the Labour party is the party of the NHS, but as we know, it is the only party that has cut the NHS budget. They might be tempted by the sound of “securonomics”, only to discover that that is built on unfunded pledges and unspecified tax increases.

Someone might be tempted by the look of the shadow Chancellor’s commitment to end unpaid internships, only to find that she has used them herself, or of Labour’s campaign against fire and rehire, only to discover that that is exactly what Labour HQ did under the current Labour leader. They might be sucked in by talk about its wanting to protect pensioners and then learn that it will not commit to our triple lock, and that hundreds of thousands more pensioners were living in absolute poverty under the last Labour Government. Businesses might be flattered by email and online ads from Labour, unaware of the 70 new regulatory burdens that would be piled on to them under a Labour Government.

My advice is: “Don’t be tempted!” People should not be fooled by a shadow Foreign Secretary who nominated the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) to be Prime Minister; a shadow International Development Secretary who wants to turn our armed forces into a hippy hit squad; a party that, until last year, had a shadow Minister for disarmament; a shadow Energy Secretary whose poor judgment on national security and our interests led to disaster and to Op Shader; a shadow Deputy Prime Minister who holds others to standards she does not think should apply to herself; or a party that talks tough on borders, but as of yesterday, has voted 132 times again strengthening them.

The Leader of the Opposition has spent four years in office posting pictures to his profile of Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Do not be fooled: behind that profile sits a man with no plan for this country, except the vested interests of militant unions, and support for the arguments of those who would do this nation harm. It is deepfake Labour led by catfish Keir. Do not fall for it.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Before we proceed may I, on behalf of Mr Speaker, thank the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House, and all other Members who have expressed their sympathy to him on the loss of his father? Lord Hoyle, Doug Hoyle, was a dedicated parliamentarian, an inspirational, kind and amusing gentleman, and a very proud father. He will be very greatly missed, and I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our sympathy to Mr Speaker and his family. Our thoughts will be with them as they make arrangements for Lord Hoyle’s funeral.

I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will remember Doug Hoyle’s smile, we will remember him with a smile, and I remember that he got elected eight months before I did.

Questions on the Cass report in this House were followed yesterday by those in the other place, and the Lords Minister said that he would respond to a number of points in writing. If information is given by the Minister that was not given to this House, could it be put in a written statement or put in the Library? Many of the points, especially those made by Baroness Hayter, were important. We need an inquiry into how things got into the state that had to be exposed by the four-year review by Dr Hilary Cass, for which we all thank her.

One thing that has not yet happened, but may happen in the next week or two, is the publication of the report from the Select Committee on the Holocaust Memorial Bill through its hybrid procedure. It is coming later than we anticipated, and may contain some interesting recommendations or decisions. Will the Government say, as soon as possible, whether they intend to go on trying to ram this proposal through? They have already spent more than £30 million achieving nothing in the last eight and a half years, so will they have a roundtable and consider spending £20 million getting a memorial up in the next two years, during the lifetime of some of the holocaust survivors, and moving the learning centre to the Imperial War Museum?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and I will certainly ensure that his request about the Cass review is undertaken. He knows that a process is being gone through at the moment for the memorial, and I will again ensure that the relevant Secretary of State has heard what he said today. There are also questions to that Secretary of State on Monday, and he may wish to make use of that opportunity.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I associate myself with the remarks about Passover and about Mr Speaker’s late father, and send my sincerest condolences to him and his family?

Since we last met for business questions, the Leader of the House has been keeping busy, and I thought that one of her social media posts on X during the recess was particularly eye-catching. Indeed, it was unique because it asked her constituents to contact her directly, so outraged was she by a burning injustice. It started:

“Damn right. I know many people will have strong feelings on this…email me…and I will make sure your concerns”

are heard. Those are such strong feelings that you may wonder, Madam Deputy Speaker, what caused that righteous anger, which was not just from the Leader of the House but from Members across the Chamber.

Was it children getting sick swimming through human faeces in the rivers of England, or perhaps the endless strikes in the NHS in England? Was it arms sales to Israel, or an economic crisis that was triggered by a former Prime Minister, now saviour of the west? Was it the cruel, immoral, illegal and ruinously expensive Rwanda scheme? Perhaps the angry post was just a response to the Leader of the House’s constituents in Portsmouth, who are now furious—rightly enough—about the likely demolition of the brand new border control post in Portsmouth, which is among a herd of such white elephants around the UK, and a direct result of the right hon. Lady’s ongoing Brexit confusion that will cost a fortune. No—that was not what prompted the outburst. The Leader of the House and many of her colleagues were furious about England’s new football top—“damn right” they were.

So, no, the farce of the doomed border post on the right hon. Lady’s doorstep has not figured in the busy social media output we see from her. Her Government’s disastrous Brexit import charges are none the less coming in on 30 April, causing even more costly confusion and raising very real concerns about food shortages, as well as her own local difficulties. May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on these new Brexit charges and the ongoing catastrophe of Brexit, which Scots rejected, yet are forced to suffer the ill effects of? Her constituents will be interested to hear an answer—ideally before she wastes more time launching into another anti-Scotland video script.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I should thank the hon. Lady for her concern about Portsmouth port, which is doing very well. We have a brand-new passenger terminal and an enormous number of new ship visits, which are projected to increase our local economy by £300 million over the next few years. That is in addition to massively increasing and diversifying the freight coming into that port. I hope she will welcome the news that the United Kingdom is exporting more and has just become the fourth-largest exporter in the world. We are doing very well.

I am always keen to facilitate my constituents who wish to make complaints to all sorts of organisations in their ability to do that. I just say to the hon. Lady that our nation’s flag is important to the people of Portsmouth. I suggest that she might like to think twice before she mocks that view. These things and these traditions are important. They are not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

The hon. Lady has been busy, too, during the recess, penning articles about how much my colleagues and I hate Scotland and the Scottish people. She has done it again in her opening remarks and her questions to me. At some point, she will have to say why she thinks that is the case. I know that the Scottish rugby team has being doing well against England, but that is not grounds to justify her accusations against me. The SNP seems hellbent on exposing hate where there is none. I understand that of the 9,000 hate crimes reported under the SNP’s new law, with 3,419 made on 1 April alone, only nine will qualify under this new law, and seven of those nine have now been dismissed. Police Scotland deserves our thanks and our sympathy. I am sure that those police officers joined the force to do something much more helpful for their communities. It is only the Conservatives who have stood against this lunacy, and we will continue to do that. Other parties had the opportunity to repeal this law and chose not to. We on the Government Benches know that laws and movements based on hate and division always try to curtail freedom, and we know that in the end such movements always fail.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I associate myself with your remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker, about the late father of Mr Speaker.

The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), is with his family right now, because his daughter-in-law is still extremely ill. I am sure the whole House will send our sympathy and best wishes for a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

On behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, I thank my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for the allocation of time for the hospice funding debate. I hope that will take place on Monday. It is heavily subscribed, I believe, and a lot of Members will want to take part. We have now filled our Chamber time. On 2 May, there will be a debate on security in the western Balkans and another on pension schemes. On 9 May, if we are given the time, there will be debates on miners and mining communities and on the BBC mid-term charter review, both of which are popular matters for discussion. We have also allocated all the time available to us in Westminster Hall. If the Leader of the House has more time that she needs to allocate to the Backbench Business Committee, we can readily fill up that time if she wishes.

The Mayor of London made a solemn promise before the last mayoral election that he would not expand the ultra low emission zone to outer London. No sooner had he been re-elected than he started a consultation on expanding ULEZ to outer London. The fact that 66% of respondents objected seemed to have no bearing on his decision; he immediately introduced ULEZ to the whole of outer London, and people are suffering as a result. At this election, he is promising not to introduce pay per mile if he is re-elected. Can we trust him? Not a bit of it. The reality is that his adviser—

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a speech. Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. If the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) was out of order and had to sit down, I would tell him so. I do not need the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) to tell me how to conduct the affairs of the Chamber.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. One of the Mayor’s key advisers has let slip that the Mayor is planning to do precisely that if he is re-elected. Can we have a debate in Government time on promises made at elections and promises broken?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I thank my hon. Friend for stepping up in place of the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. I am sure that all Members will join him in sending our thoughts and love to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and his whole family at this difficult time. I also thank him for the advert for future Backbench Business Committee debates.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out the abysmal record and broken promises of Labour’s London Mayor, whose war on motorists will, I am afraid, continue. He is targeting people through the ULEZ and low-traffic neighbourhoods, which disproportionately hit those on low incomes. Meanwhile, Transport for London is not in a financially stable position, and every year, 15,000 fewer homes are being delivered than the Mayor promised in his London plan. Labour has a record of failing not only those in Wales, Birmingham, Nottingham and countless other places, but Londoners, who will be safer with Susan Hall. I urge all hon. Members to support her.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister has said that he would hold a general election in June or July if the results of May’s election were not that bad for his party. May I ask the Leader of the House to persuade the Prime Minister to consider the good of the country when considering and deciding on the timing of the general election?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for that innovative question. Dates of elections are way above my pay grade, but I will again urge everyone to vote Conservative when that opportunity arises.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last month, Niyak Ghorbani was wrongly arrested for holding up a placard saying that Hamas are terrorists. He was later de-arrested. Yesterday, just yards from this place, the same man was once again arrested for holding the same sign. He was then de-arrested again. Hamas are terrorists, and we should all say so and defend freedom of speech. Will my right hon. Friend organise a debate in Government time on how we can end two-tier policing and restore public confidence in the Metropolitan police?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. This is an important matter that other hon. Members have raised in the Chamber, particularly when the first incident happened. The policy is clear, and I am pleased that, in both situations, the arrest was reversed, but it goes to show the importance of our having in place not just the right policies, but the operational policing plan, as well as training being undertaken to ensure that officers, who often face difficult and confusing situations, know exactly what they should be doing and when. I shall ensure that both the Home Secretary and the head of the Metropolitan police have heard his remarks.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is over a year since Sir Brian Langstaff made his final recommendations on compensation. The Government have accepted the moral case for compensation to be paid. More than 100 people have died in the last 12 months, and still no money has been allocated for compensation. It was a step forward yesterday that amendments were tabled to the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the other place, but the amendment that this House agreed, which included a three-month timeframe for a compensation body to be set up, has been removed by Government amendments in the other place. Could we have a statement from the Minister on why it is taking so long to set up this compensation body, and to get compensation paid? If the Government wanted to, they could expedite matters, as they have done with the Post Office scandal, and could bring a stand-alone Bill to this House. I am sure that the House would get that Bill through to get compensation to these people before they die.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank again the right hon. Lady for her diligent work on this incredibly important issue. She met the Minister concerned—the Paymaster General—yesterday, and he will have given her an update on his work. We recognise that many victims have waited too long for compensation. This Government established the inquiry, and the Minister established the compensation review that was done. The Government amendment that the right hon. Lady referred to includes a provision for interim payments to be made to the estates of people who were infected by contaminated blood products, have passed away, and were registered with the infected blood scheme or its predecessor schemes, where an interim payment has not already been made. I have regular meetings with the Minister who is overseeing this matter. She will know that he is working at pace. I am glad that we have gripped this issue, but we need to get those interim payments and full compensation to people swiftly, and I am confident that that will happen.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall (Gedling) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of the biggest issues that my constituents raise on the doorstep is the condition of our roads. A lot of work is being done to fix the roads in Gedling and Nottinghamshire, but cash is a big issue. I warmly welcome the fact that, as part of the new East Midlands Combined Authority, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will have one of the largest devolved transport budgets. Given this change, could we have a debate in Government time on infrastructure and investment in the east midlands? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a debate would be a good opportunity to highlight the fact that, having done so much work to secure a devolution deal for the east midlands, my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) is the person best placed to lead the east midlands into this new future?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right that on 2 May, those in the east midlands will have the opportunity to ensure that that happens. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley)—that is not how his name will appear on the ballot paper—has helped to secure the biggest single devolved transport budget in the country. He has plans to invest that in road resurfacing and better bus and train routes, and he has a plan for how that will attract jobs and investment. In contrast, the Labour party has wasted £38 million of taxpayers’ money on its failed Robin Hood Energy scheme, and like other Labour local authorities, Nottingham City Council has declared itself bankrupt, which raises council tax and makes the hard-working people of Nottinghamshire pay for Labour’s failures. If my hon. Friend secured a debate on this topic, it would be well attended.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I add my sincere condolences to Mr Speaker and his family on the loss of his father.

A report from the Jo Cox Foundation called the abuse of MPs a “threat to democracy”. That applies to abuse of not just MPs, but elected members at all levels, particularly local councillors. According to the Local Government Association, 70% of councillors have had similar experiences to MPs. I had a meeting with the Bath and North East Somerset group leaders last week, at which I heard harrowing stories. We MPs now get extra security through Operation Bridger, but local councillors do not get the same protections. Is it not time that the Government put their mind to protecting elected members at all levels? May we have a statement on that, please?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady raises a very important matter. She will know that the defending democracy taskforce, headed by the Minister for Security, is looking at these issues, and is, in some cases, providing support to councillors or councils across the country. The Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology also met Mr Speaker and me earlier this week about online abuse that hon. Members face. There needs to be more focus on what platforms are doing, their stated responsibilities, and whether they are living up to them. I will ensure that that Secretary of State and the Minister for Security have heard what the hon. Lady has said today.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Sir Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I applaud the Government’s efforts to try to sort out the Gibraltar-Spain border. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how encouraged I was by the agreement announced last Friday. However, the EU Commissioner has been contrary on the issues of airport goods and mobility, and we have been given only some detail on the direction of travel in those areas. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has gone on record to say that Gibraltar will never be Spanish, a sentiment in which I am sure the whole House will share. In the light of the comments by the EU Commissioner, will my right hon. Friend make time for a debate in the House, in which it can be made clear by all parties that the House will never compromise on British sovereignty on the Rock, or its people’s right to self-determination?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for affording the Government the opportunity to state again at the Dispatch Box that we will never compromise on the British sovereignty of the Rock, or the right of its people to self-determination. Gibraltar is incredibly important to us strategically and culturally. Gibraltar enables us to defend its interests and ours, and as a consequence, we will defend Gibraltar from anyone who has other ideas.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May we have a debate in Government time on the role of regional Mayors? Lord Houchen, the Conservative Tees Valley Mayor, seems to believe that his role is to benefit his mates, while distancing himself as far as possible from the Conservative party in whose name he is standing, whereas Chris McEwan, our Labour party candidate, and Kim McGuinness, our fantastic candidate for North East Mayor, believe that their role would be to bring opportunity to every corner of the region, and to be a voice for everyone in the region. Who is right?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fact that Ben Houchen irritates the Labour party so much is a testament to his good work. He saved Teesside Airport from closure, and it is now delivering new flights for local people. He secured the UK’s first and largest freeport, which is already securing billions of pounds of private investment, with the Teesworks site having secured investment from Thai banks. The demolition and decontamination of land has been delivered ahead of budget and time, ready for reinvestment, and he has done many other things, but the statistic that stands out most is that he has increased the employment rate in the area by 3% above the national average. He is doing a great job. He is a good man, and I hope that he will have the opportunity to continue to do that good job in the wake of the appalling smears by the Labour party.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for allocating a slot on Monday for the hospice debate. Does she agree that the Prime Minister’s decision to establish the Darlington economic campus, following relentless campaigning by me, my fantastic Tees Valley colleagues and our marvellous Mayor Ben Houchen, was a game changer for Darlington? Does she further agree that saving our airport, launching Teesworks and restoring Tees pride are further examples of why Ben Houchen should continue to serve Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool? Can she find time for a debate on the modernising revolution that Ben has unleashed, which is benefiting every part of our great region?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for asking another question with regard to our Ben Houchen, because his achievements simply could not possibly be crammed into one answer. He is also enabling Net Zero Teesside, the world’s first industrial scale carbon capture, usage and storage facility. He is delivering over £200 million of investment in Darlington, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool’s rail stations to improve rail capacity, and he is using reallocated High Speed 2 money to transform local transport, including the long-overdue Darlington northern link road. Again, I urge anyone who has the opportunity to vote on 2 May to enable him to continue that good work to do so.

Anum Qaisar Portrait Ms Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of my constituents recently got in touch after fleeing domestic abuse in his relationship. Owing to societal stigma, male survivors are often overlooked, leaving them without adequate safeguarding services or police support. Given that one third of domestic abuse victims are male, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate, in Government time, about improving support for all victims of domestic abuse?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Many of the measures that we have introduced to deal with domestic abuse or with people trying to control others in one way or another, including financially, apply to everyone who is in the unfortunate position of being a victim. Advertising these services to everyone who might be affected is also important, so I shall ensure that the relevant Home Office Minister has heard what she has said.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Government’s work to expand the role of community pharmacies as part of our healthcare system. I particularly welcome the Pharmacy First scheme, which was successfully piloted in Cornwall. However, while we are placing more demand on pharmacies, the number of community pharmacies in Cornwall is falling, with both Boots and Asda announcing closures. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) has written to Asda opposing the closure of its pharmacy in Bodmin. Pharmacy owners tell me that the current funding arrangements are not adequate to meet the growing demand. May we have a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care on the Government’s plans to maintain, and hopefully increase, the number of community pharmacies, particularly in rural areas, and ensure that they receive the funding that they need?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the excellent service Pharmacy First, which is a much appreciated and convenient scheme that enables people to access certain prescription drugs without having to go to their general practitioner. Given that pharmacies are private businesses that receive NHS funding for pharmaceutical services, closure decisions are obviously made by those commercial organisations, but my hon. Friend’s local care board will have a responsibility to ensure good coverage of those services. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has heard his concerns, and that all his constituents are able to make use of all available services, including Pharmacy First.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I join the Leader of the House in wishing the Jewish community, whom I am proud to represent, chag Pesach sameach.

Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Bernard, Jonno and the entire team at Radcliffe football club on reaching their highest ever position as champions of the northern premier league? They will be lifting the trophy this Saturday. Will she agree to a debate in Government time about the importance of grassroots football and its benefit to local communities? But more importantly, up the Boro!

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that the whole House will want to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Bernard, Jonno and the whole team on their incredible achievements. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have recently held debates on the importance of community sport to not only helping communities but providing a pipeline of new talent. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has heard what he has said.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

For years, the town of Amlwch has been forgotten, but not on my watch. Anglesey freeport and the UK Government’s recent purchase of the Wylfa nuclear site mean jobs and investment coming to the north of the island—but I am not stopping there. Along with a local resident, Mandy Jones, I have launched a campaign to get the supermarket Aldi to come to Amlwch to give my constituents the opportunity to shop locally. Will the Leader of the House support my Aldi to Amlwch campaign, and if it is successful, will she join Mandy and me in cutting the ribbon?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my hon. Friend on all her achievements: the freeport; the partnership between the county council and Stena Line, which will be a huge boost to the local economy; and of course her championing of energy projects, the prosperity park and the inaugural trade centre of excellence in Wales. She has helped to secure all those things. I will be very happy to do all I can to help her latest campaign, which sounds like a good one. Although I cannot commit to a date until she gives me one, I hope that if I am able to attend, I will be able to help cut the ribbon—perhaps with a sword.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was recently able to visit California, in the United States, with the Scottish Affairs Committee to look at the opportunities there and the ecosystem that has been created. Everyone we spoke to in the space sector spoke very highly of our universities and the sector in this country. However, we regularly hear of a skills shortage in that industry, which is a massive opportunity not just for Scotland, but for the whole of the UK. It is some time since we had a debate in this place on the opportunities in the space sector. Would the Leader of the House consider setting aside time for such a debate?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for all she is doing to support this growing and important sector in every part of the United Kingdom. The Government are very aware of the need to ensure that we have skills and a growing workforce that can contribute to it. We are delivering on our commitment to build a whole-UK space ecosystem by working with business, academic institutions and the devolved Administrations, and we have backed that with funding. She will know how to apply for a debate, but I shall make sure that the Secretary of State has heard her keenness to give this very important matter more of an airing.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can we have a debate on the importance of improving NHS services and expanding capacity in Barnet so that I can update the House on the excellent progress made towards the enlargement of Barnet Hospital A&E, with planning permission secured, work under way, more staff arriving, and patients expected to have a significant improvement in facilities by January?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all the work she has done on this matter, particularly securing the £6.5 million redevelopment of the urgent and emergency care unit in her local hospital. I think that the timeline she outlined is correct, and the work will certainly have a massive impact on improving patient waiting times and reducing ambulance handover times by creating additional capacity. She will know that she can air questions to the Secretary of State on this matter on 23 April, which is next week.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am absolutely delighted to tell the House that 81 students from the Bobby Moore Academy in West Ham will be welcomed to the Royal Opera House today to watch a performance of “Swan Lake”. I hope that they absolutely love it and that it inspires a lifetime of getting joy from the arts. I am sure the Leader of the House will agree with me and my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that every child should have the opportunity to fall in love with the arts. Can we have a debate in Government time where we can explore ways that we can give working-class communities like mine greater access to the arts?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope that all students from the Bobby Moore Academy have a wonderful time watching “Swan Lake” today. The hon. Lady knows that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that every child can experience high-quality performances. The funding that we have distributed has been across the whole of the UK, which is very important. She has just missed the opportunity to raise this issue with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, so I shall make sure that she has heard what the hon. Lady has said today.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can we debate whether changes to the Standing Orders are necessary? They are the nearest thing that we have to a written constitution. Yesterday, there were multiple references to guests in the Gallery. A few weeks ago, when an hon. Member made such as reference, the fellow actually got up and took a bow. It may be that the current Standing Orders are no longer fit for purpose and that allowing such references should be in the gift of the Chair, but we ought to make the change, rather than just go on ignoring the Standing Orders.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising a question that is actually in my brief, which is quite a new experience for me. Other Members have raised similar concerns, and I will make sure that Mr Speaker hears that. I think some flexibility is appreciated, as we quite often have particular people that we in the House want to acknowledge and send support to in that manner, but I will make sure that Mr Speaker has heard that point. It will be a matter for him, as well as for the whole of the House. In the meantime, I am sure that we can rely on my right hon. Friend to loudly tut whenever that happens.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister was able to rely on Labour votes to pass his flagship smoking Bill. Does the Leader of the House agree that, sadly for Government Members, that shows a Prime Minister in office but not actually in power?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have free votes on some matters in this place, and after the initial shock, confusion and pressure from having to decide which Lobby to go into, that is appreciated by hon. Members. On that vote, the Prime Minister put forward world-leading legislation, which he had passed by this House. I think that that shows that he is very much in control.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My local newspaper, the Grimsby Telegraph, carried a recent report praising the work of community police officer Dave Cave, highlighting the importance of community policing. I am pleased to say that, in Humberside police, both chief officers and the excellent police commissioner, Jon Evison, also support community policing. Could we have a debate in Government time to explore policing methods and the importance of community policing?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that everyone in the House would want to send their congratulations to PC Dave Cave for his near 20 years of service. I am sure that all colleagues would join me in doing that and would congratulate him on that well-deserved award. He exemplifies what it means to be a police officer and a fantastic community champion. I am sure that my hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate, but such an opportunity would also afford us the ability to shine a spotlight on the very good work done by our police forces. We do not note and praise them enough for it.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Constituents of mine in Pontypridd and Glyncoch have got in touch regarding concerns about the operation of Craig-yr-Hesg quarry. Will the Leader of the House support me in securing a debate to ensure that real-time silica dust monitoring is invested in up and down the country, so that my constituents and many others living near quarry sites do not have to live in fear?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to hear about the situation in the hon. Lady’s constituency. The next questions to the relevant Secretary of State are not until 9 May, so I will write and make sure that he has heard what she has said.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a keen motorcyclist, I welcome the Government setting out an ambitious vision for the moped, motorcycle and entire powered light vehicle sector in their 2021 transport decarbonisation plan. A road map to realising that vision is in their joint action plan with the Motorcycle Industry Association. The key to reducing emissions and alleviating congestion is improving access to the sector through a full-scale licence review. Can we please have a debate in Government time on the Motorcycle Industry Association’s A Licence to Net Zero campaign?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that campaign. He will know that the Department has been meeting with that body—I think that they met at a roundtable on 17 January—and with other parts of industry on the issues that he touches on. Although there are no current plans to reform category L vehicle licences, officials met stakeholders at the end of last year, and I think that they are due to have a follow-up ministerial roundtable with the relevant Minister shortly after the May recess, which that particular trade body will be attending. However, I thank my right hon. Friend for continuing to campaign on its behalf.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I echo the condolences paid to Mr Speaker and note that mass was offered in the crypt chapel last night for the repose of Doug Hoyle’s soul.

We have heard the Leader of the House reinforce the Government’s rejection of the Procedure Committee’s recommendation for the Foreign Secretary to be scrutinised at the Bar of the House. She has also written to encourage the Procedure Committee to investigate the operation of the Standing Orders governing Opposition days. What is the point of the Procedure Committee investigating matters on her recommendation if the Government simply dismiss its recommendations?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is important that I raise these matters with the Procedure Committee, but it is up to the Committee what it decides. On the latter point, the Committee had a meeting yesterday to discuss my correspondence. I think it does a very good job, and the Government do not dismiss its findings. More often than not, we agree with its findings. Where we have disagreements—and we disagreed with only part of that particular report—we publish our response. Of course, the other place also has a stake in this matter.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last month I was targeted by a honeytrap plot, which I immediately reported to the police and the authorities. I put on the record my sincere thanks to Leicestershire police, who have been exemplary in taking it on. I also thank the Whips for their support. However, I have significant concerns about how this was handled by parliamentary security. Will the Leader of the House ask Mr Speaker to conduct a full review of the system for reporting and investigating incidents reported by MPs, so that lessons can be learned and no MP has to go through the same experiences?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was very sorry to learn of what happened to my hon. Friend. I thank him for putting on the record his thanks to his local police force, which has been fantastic in its work. I will of course ensure that not just Mr Speaker but the whole House of Commons Commission has heard his concerns. I know that the head of security here takes these matters very seriously, and I am sure this will be followed up.

Charlotte Nichols Portrait Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House on the sad passing of Lord Hoyle, who was a much-loved icon of Warrington, and in wishing my fellow Jews chag Pesach sameach.

My constituent Adam Rowland recently met the Prime Minister, who promised live on television, no less, that he would be in touch with him regarding his negative reaction to the covid vaccine and his difficulty accessing the recommended treatment on the NHS. Since then, despite repeated requests, Adam has had no response from anyone in Government and feels like he is being treated as some sort of pariah and anti-vax conspiracy theorist. He is not. He is just a man who did the right thing in taking up the vaccine and was one of the unfortunate minority who became ill, and he needs some support. Will the Leader of the House please help Adam get the response he was promised?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course I will do that. If the hon. Lady gives me the details, I will follow it up straight after this session. Those who are injured by vaccines need access to support, healthcare and answers, and we should ensure that they get them.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government are absolutely right to fund the doubling of dental training places over the next five years, because they understand how important access to NHS dentistry is for our constituents. For a person growing up in Broadland, the nearest dentistry training place is currently in Birmingham or London, because the east of England is the only region that does not have a dental training school. May we have a debate on the importance of having a new dental training school in East Anglia, and preferably at the University of East Anglia?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that increasing the number and making sure that every region has medical schools and dental schools is vital, and not just for growing the workforce but for ensuring that the workforce is located where it is required. I will ensure that the Secretary of State has heard what he has said today. My hon. Friend will know that we have had a huge catch-up job to do since the pandemic. We are doing that with 23% more treatments delivered in the last year alone, with an additional 1.7 million adults and 800,000 children receiving NHS dental care, but more needs to be done to ensure that everyone can remain dentally fit.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me join other Members in sending my sympathy to Mr Speaker and his family on the loss of his father, Lord Hoyle.

I have written to the Health Secretary four times on behalf of a constituent to ask why 65 to 69-year-olds have been excluded from the recent so-called “expansion” of the roll-out of the NHS shingles vaccine. Those who are turning 65 are eligible for it, but those already 65 to 69 are missing out and must wait until they are 70 to become eligible, despite the extra vulnerabilities of their age group. Not a single response out of the four from the Minister gave me a straight answer as to why 65 to 69-year-olds are being excluded from this vaccine roll-out. Will the Leader of the House advise me on any other way I can get a clear response from the Minister that lays out clinical or practical reasoning to back up her Department’s decision to exclude 65 to 69-year-olds from the shingles vaccine?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady raises an important question. If the Department had responded to her— I will certainly ask why it has not—the reply would have talked about the step change in the roll-out and how the Department is going to manage the expansion of access to that vaccine. That is understandable, but I know that it is not acceptable to many Members in this House, because from the logic of that it follows that there will be a vaccine available to people who would benefit from it, and the evidence shows that it is clinically effective and cost-effective for those individuals, but they will not be able to access it now. Members are right to press the policy on that front. Obviously, she can raise this issue at questions, but I know it is a concern for a large number of Members and so will make sure that the Secretary of State has heard this and will ask the committees that look at this policy to sense-check what it is doing.

Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Progress has been made at Alstom in Derby, with a potential order of 10 trains approved for funding. We hope that will secure the site’s future, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary for his hard work on this matter in recent months. However, questions remain about the future of rail in the UK, including, of course, about the future of Great British Rail’s new headquarters in Derby. May we have a debate in Government time on the issue?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, let me thank my hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to ensure that this new HQ is established quickly. I know that a lot of close working has been undertaken with Derby-based partners, including the city council, to create a shared plan for that HQ, and that she has been diligent and has been tabling written parliamentary questions on this matter. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State has heard her continuing campaigning on it today. She will know that the next Transport questions will take place on 16 May, which will be after that timetable has been confirmed.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have been dealing with a long-running case involving constituents who lost their investment in the Paradise Golf and Beach Resort in Morocco. Some 800 investors, the majority of them British, lost investments in the resort after construction abruptly halted in 2016. I have contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office numerous times, as well as writing to the relevant ambassadors. The FCDO confirmed the Moroccan ambassador’s willingness to meet investors, but no meeting has been arranged to date. May we have a debate in Government time on how the FCDO can best support those, such as my constituents, who have been left high and dry in this situation?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to hear about that situation and will of course make sure that the FCDO knows that the hon. Lady has asked about it again today. The next questions to the ministerial team will be on 30 April, so I shall make sure that they have heard that she might raise the issue then. If my office can facilitate getting either consular assistance or more long- term assistance for those investors, please do call on us.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As someone who grew up in Birmingham, it pains me to see the total financial mismanagement of Birmingham City Council by the Labour party. Its record stands in stark contrast to that of Mayor Andy Street. If growth, regeneration and house building are left to the Labour party alone in the west midlands, it will mean no progress at best, but regression at worst. Does my right hon. Friend agree that voters should support Andy Street in May, to ensure that they keep a Mayor who can at least actually get things done?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Whatever people’s political persuasions, they recognise that about Andy Street. He is above politics. When it has come down to fighting for the people he represents, he has chosen to side with them, in some cases against the policies of his own party. He delivers for people. He has built more homes for young people and families than in any other region. He has secured new and improved rail services across the region. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on redeveloping wasteland instead of building on Birmingham’s green belt. Some £10 billion in Government investment has been secured for the region, and 10 times the amount of transport funding than anyone else has ever managed to get in. He has secured some 100,000 new jobs from his covid recovery plan, 4,000 apprenticeships and four metro extensions. And that is all without raising a single penny of additional tax. If people want that record to continue, they need to let Andy Street continue as their Mayor.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Leader of the House will have followed the efforts of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to oppose plans for an incinerator in his constituency. She will also be aware that Ministers have now issued a direction to the Environment Agency

“to temporarily pause the determination of certain environmental permits for new waste incineration facilities”,

saying that will give Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs officials the chance to

“lead a piece of work considering the role of waste incineration in the management of residual wastes”.

She will also be aware that the majority of permits for incinerators are considered and granted by local authorities rather than by the Environment Agency. Much to the annoyance of residents across Calderdale, this pause does not apply to permits applied for from local authorities rather than from the Environment Agency. Does she agree that unless all permits are paused and all applications are considered as part of this piece of work, it looks as if it is one rule for Government Ministers and another rule for everybody else?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

From what I know of the situation, I do not think what the hon. Lady says follows. There will be different considerations in different cases. I suggest that she raises this at the next departmental questions if she is concerned about other projects. I will ensure that the Department has heard what she has said today. If she is going to make such accusations, she needs a bit more evidence than that which she has furnished us with today.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that the Leader of the House will be looking forward to next Tuesday, 23 April, which is St George’s day, as we celebrate with the Royal Society of St George, hosted by Mr Speaker in Speaker’s House. Will she ensure that we have a debate in Government time about English affairs? We often hear about Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh affairs, but how about a debate on England? Also, can we please have a public holiday for St George’s day, perhaps combined with May day, so that we have one great celebration for our country?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for affording us all the opportunity to come to the event that he has put together next week and have a jolly good knees-up to celebrate St George’s day. I hope that he has extended the invitation to many Members, although the SNP spokesperson may not wish to attend, given the comments she made earlier about the English flag, or she might need a little encouragement to do so. He is right that we should be celebrating our national, regional and cultural heritage across the counties of England, and I hope that the event next week will give us the opportunity to do so.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In January, the Bank of Scotland branch in Brodick closed. In March, the post office in Brodick closed. In May, the post office in West Kilbride will close. And in October, the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Largs will close. As banks abandon our towns, especially across North Ayrshire and Arran, and as our postmasters struggle to stay afloat, will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out the importance of access to cash and financial inclusion? Does she share my view that we need minimum service standards for banks and post offices, including physical outlets in our towns?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important matter. There is that expectation. She will know that, in particular, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has a programme of work and shares good practice about how these services can be maintained—and physically maintained as well—even if particular branches are closing. I will make sure that that Department knows that the hon. Lady may benefit from some advice in that respect, but I know that colleagues from across the House have had similar situations, but have managed to retain access to banking, which is vital for local businesses in particular, and also those services from the Post Office as well.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mr Deputy Speaker, I bring good news from Kettering, where Northamptonshire police has been pleased to announce that, after five years of its groundbreaking Operation Crooked, burglaries have now been halved. A key feature of this campaign has been that, since 2019, specialist burglary teams have ensured that every burglary victim gets a visit from the police, while the quality of investigations, forensic analysis and intelligence gathering has been improved. May we have a statement from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to congratulate Northamptonshire police and all its officers on this tremendous work and to encourage other police forces to follow Northamptonshire’s example?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing us more good news from Kettering and congratulate him on the work that he is doing there. I will, of course, join him in praising and congratulating Northamptonshire police on this huge achievement, which I know will have taken a great deal of effort and determination on its part. He will know that, since 2010, our communities are safer, with neighbourhood crime such as burglary and robbery down by 48% on roughly the same resource, and a large part of that in recent years has been the additional recruitment of 20,000 more police officers, which means that we are just shy of 150,000 officers in England and Wales, higher than the previous peak before the police uplift. That is a huge achievement and we should praise his local police force for its part in it.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Conservatives have cut 21,000 police officers, decimating our local neighbourhood teams. There are now 10,000 fewer police officers and police community support officers in our neighbourhood teams than in 2015. And the percentage of people reporting never seeing a police officer on their street has doubled since 2010. Can we have a debate about the number of police officers and the Conservatives’ claims about what they are doing about it, so that they can explain why they cut 21,000 police officers in the first place? We can also then talk about Labour’s pledge to put a neighbourhood team in every community.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the hon. Gentleman has his facts wrong. We have record numbers of police officers. On roughly the same resource—when we leave aside online fraud—we have halved crime. The outliers across the country are in Labour-controlled areas. They are in London, under the current Labour London Mayor, where knife crime and serious and violent crime have soared. They are also in areas such as the west midlands where there is a Labour police and crime commissioner. The stats speak for themselves. A person is 40% more likely to be a victim of crime if they are in an area that has a Labour police and crime commissioner. Our police have done a tremendous job since 2010: we have halved crime on roughly the same resource. That is what people get with the Conservatives.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Hajj begins in mid-June, when thousands of British Muslims will travel to Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimage to Mecca. Last week, I met City of London Commander Khan who highlighted to me the growing issue around Hajj fraud. Thousands of Brits are being targeted by rogue tour operators and when they get to Saudi Arabia they discover that they have no hotel and no tour. Will the Leader of the House consider a debate in Government time highlighting the growing issue around Hajj fraud and economic fraud in general?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend has provided her own answer. I thank her for raising awareness of this important issue, and sending a clear message to anyone who might be targeted with such appalling fraud. These kinds of crimes are terrible in any circumstance, but trying to exploit people undertaking this particular pilgrimage is really unpleasant. I thank her for raising the matter. She will know that the Government take it very seriously, and had a recent campaign to combat this type of fraud. I will certainly ensure that all relevant Departments are aware of her campaign, and assist her in any way they can.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Ind)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Following the publication of the Cass review and its damning conclusion that children were given unscientific medical advice, does the Leader of the House stand by her statement that

“trans men are men and trans women are women”?—[Official Report, 1 March 2021; Vol. 690, c. 60.]

Does she still believe that this is the starting point and ending point of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and will she make a statement on how we are going to protect our children and young people from dangerous indoctrination by gender ideology?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

When I was Minister for Women and Equalities, I set up the first inquiry looking at why so many children were being referred into trans services. There was a 4,000% increase in the number of girls, for example, who were being referred into trans services. The Government have consistently raised such matters. The Cass review is an important review. The gender recognition consultation that looked at whether