Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Thursday 31st March 2022

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I absolutely concur that we are better together as the United Kingdom. The ability shown in the pandemic to act across the United Kingdom, including through the firepower of Her Majesty’s Treasury in respect of schemes such as furlough, has amply demonstrated that.

On the hon. Gentleman’s more specific point, one material thing that can be done is on the visibility of the pipeline of available contracts. There is around £250 billion-worth of public procurement and around £50 billion-worth of central Government public procurement, and I am extremely keen that SMEs in Northern Ireland are able to get visibility of that pipeline, so that we can tap into the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of which the hon. Gentleman speaks.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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8. What progress his Department has made on reducing red tape since the UK’s departure from the EU.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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14. What progress he has made on implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform report published on 16 June 2021.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Yes, I do. I think it is a fantastic White Paper.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Q5. Over 2 million tonnes of edible food is wasted on farms and in factories every year. Funding was introduced in 2019 to cover the costs of getting food to charities to reach those in need. The Prime Minister will know, however, that the Government have now cut that critical funding to zero. Funding for food waste diversion helps to support community projects such as the Threehills community supermarket in Glasgow, so can he explain why he is ignoring calls from Feeding Britain, Good Food Scotland and FareShare to continue that worthwhile initiative and is instead cutting off a lifeline to those struggling with the cost of living crisis?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. I think he is referring to the strategy that we have for food waste. As far as I know, we continue to support it, but I would be happy to update him by letter.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd March 2022

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
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1. What recent steps the Government have taken to tackle the impact of (a) inflation and (b) increases in the cost of living on households and businesses in Wales.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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10. What recent steps the Government have taken to tackle the impact of (a) inflation and (b) increases in the cost of living on households and businesses in Wales.

Simon Hart Portrait The Secretary of State for Wales (Simon Hart)
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Among a range of measures, the Chancellor recently announced a £200 energy bill discount for households across the whole of the UK, including Wales, as well as £180 million to the Welsh Government in recognition of the council tax energy rebate in England.

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Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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With rising inflation and a cost of living crisis, a recent YouGov survey of Welsh voters found that 71% felt that their personal financial situation is set to worsen over the next 12 months and 27% said that they will struggle to pay their next energy bill. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Chancellor should turn his energy loan into a grant and reverse the £20 universal credit cut?

Simon Hart Portrait Simon Hart
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Again, I can only say that it would be unhelpful and inappropriate for me to predict and prejudge what the Chancellor will be saying in the Chamber in a matter of minutes. All I can say is that these are conversations—[Hon. Members: “Go on!”] I would like to, but I am not going to. These conversations have been a regular part of—have dominated—the Wales Office’s connection with the Treasury in the last few days and weeks. As I say, the hon. Member has not got long to wait, and I hope he can bear with me.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd March 2022

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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4. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on seizing the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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12. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on seizing the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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19. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on seizing the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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Everybody can be incredibly confident that the UK has acted swiftly to execute the biggest package of sanctions ever imposed against a G20 nation. Let us be clear that the UK has designated more than 1,000 individuals, entities and subsidiaries under the Russia sanctions regime since the invasion, including President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov. More than 3 million Russian companies are barred from raising money on UK capital markets. We will also target more than 500 members of the Duma and Federation Council. That makes up the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions Russia has ever seen.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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Given the rushed nature of legislation as the Government play catch up with EU states, for example, there have been reports that further measures will be required to close remaining loopholes exploited by oligarchs. What discussions have taken place around that, and will the Minister confirm that further legislation should be expected in this coming year?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to legislate effectively and that is why we will take time to get the detail right on property while prioritising further action as far as we can. To be clear, in the past week the Government have passed the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, established a register of beneficial ownership, and sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and entities. The Deputy Prime Minister explained in answer to the first set of questions the action he is taking at the International Criminal Court to ensure that it can fully investigate Russian war crimes, but I accept that more might need to be done.

Covid-19 Update

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for all the support that she gives to hospitals in the Greater Manchester area, which I know well, in which she knows we are investing hugely. I thank them for the care and the trouble that they are taking in a very tough time. They will get all the support that they need.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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The Prime Minister has to make decisions based on evidence. However, reinfections are not included in the UK Government covid cases figures, despite warnings by scientists at Imperial College London that up to 15% of omicron cases could be of people who have had coronavirus before. So can the Prime Minister assure us that reinfections will be tracked and recorded on the UK Government’s dashboard, and if so, when?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but the decision is up to the UK Health Security Agency.

Covid-19: Winter Plan

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Monday 23rd November 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Yes, that is right. We publish unprecedented amounts of data, on which these judgments have to be made. I commit to my hon. Friend that we will look at the precise data—in Aylesbury, across Buckinghamshire and, of course, nationwide—as we make these difficult judgments.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) [V]
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We do not often enough thank those public sector workers who have gone the extra mile during covid, particularly those processing furlough payments in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, those processing universal credit payments in the Department of Work and Pensions, and, as the Secretary of State will be aware, those who work in the national health service, for their heroic efforts. Will he thank those public sector workers for everything they are doing, and will he explain to them why this Government believe they should be subjected to a three-year pay freeze and whether he thinks that is appropriate?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I pay tribute to all those who have been working on the coronavirus response and, more broadly, all those who have been working together across the public and private sectors to make it happen. There are clear, significant economic consequences to the actions that we have had to take, and we as a country will have to get through those in the same way as we have pulled together to get through this coronavirus crisis so far. We are not there yet, but we are making significant progress.

External Private Contractors: Government Use and Employment

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 21st October 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered Government use of external private contractors and effect on employment.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. The question before the House is the use of external private contractors and its effect on employment. I am grateful to hon. Members for participating in this important debate. The recent pandemic has shone a spotlight on public sector procurement and the awarding of contracts. Although it is incumbent on the Government to ensure value for money for the taxpayer and quality of service delivery, they also have a duty, whether they like it or not, to those workers tasked with delivering services on which both Government and public rely. I believe that, on all fronts, the Government are failing in their responsibilities in that regard and so are failing taxpayers and workers alike.

Recent examples include the likes of Serco, which has received beyond hefty sums of taxpayer cash to run a failed test and trace system. The revolving door of Government, ex-Ministers and outsourcing companies is pernicious in every sense and does little to instil public confidence in a method of service delivery that is fundamentally flawed. I hope that other Members will speak more on this Government failure as the debate progresses. They will no doubt highlight other examples of failed contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

I have chosen to concentrate on the example of civil service facilities management work in this speech, but if we substituted for the civil service nearly every NHS trust, many councils and other public sector bodies, my observations would unfortunately still be valid. The experience of the civil service is generally the same as that across the public sector, but I particularly wanted to concentrate on the civil service, as I am hoping that Ministers will now start to consider the outsourcing model itself.

It goes without saying that if workers win improvements through union action, that immediately has an impact on the outsource company’s bottom line. Those companies, especially where there is no trade union recognition, then tend to try to recoup lost revenue by cutting staff or their working hours. There are natural limits to productivity gains made through cutting staff. Inherently, the model is unstable and leads to companies running into financial difficulties.

Let us look at the Mitie-Interserve merger. My argument is well illustrated by the announcement in June that Mitie and Interserve’s facilities management arm are to merge at the end of the year, subject to shareholders approving a £271 million share purchase. In reality, Mitie is taking over Interserve. Both companies hold a number of civil service and public sector contracts, worth more than £2 billion of public money. Mitie’s biggest contract is for the provision of in-country and overseas escorting for the Home Office. That contract is worth £514 million. Interserve’s biggest contract is the Department for Work and Pensions estate and facilities management contract, worth £225 million.

Interserve has clearly been in financial difficulty for some time. Last year, it went into pre-pack administration. At that time, the Labour party called for a temporary ban on Interserve bidding for public contracts, but that call was not heeded. We know that Interserve was awarded a five-year facilities management contract worth £670 million by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in early August 2018. Shortly after that contract was awarded, Interserve moved to cut staff, and Public and Commercial Services union members went into a long-running dispute over job cuts, pay, sick pay entitlement and trade union recognition. The company issued profit warnings in March 2015, then two more in 2016, and another as recently as 2018.

Mitie has been involved in multiple disputes with its employees: we can cite the Royal Opera House, the Houses of Parliament, First Great Western, London Underground, and various NHS hospitals. It was subject to an investigation into its MiHomecare business by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for paying its employees less than the minimum wage. Industrial relations in Mitie are so bad that in March 2019, Unite the union said that it should be barred from acquiring contracts due to its woeful treatment of its workforce. That Unite warning is interesting, as even a few months ago it was clear that Mitie and Interserve were considering a deal.

This is where the similarities with Carillion might be interesting to consider, so what can we learn from the lessons of Carillion? The report of the joint inquiry by the Select Committees on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and on Work and Pensions recommended

“that the Government immediately reviews the role and responsibilities of its Crown Representatives in the light of the Carillion case. This review should consider whether devoting more resources to liaison with strategic suppliers would offer better value for the taxpayer.”

I do not know whether that recommendation was acted on in relation to facilities management contracts in the civil service, but it does not appear to have been exercised in this instance to scrutinise Mitie and Interserve.

Moving on to the issue of inequality in pay and employment terms, each civil service department has to comply with the public sector equality duty. The civil service does not have to award contracts where only the minimum wage is paid, statutory sick pay is given, and trade union recognition is not a right. It could choose to make the payment of the real living wage, full sick pay from day one, and trade union recognition a condition of the contract, as many local authorities have begun to do.

Research carried out by the PCS union shows that only two of the 23 ministerial Government Departments pay the real living wage to their facilities management outsourced workers, and no Department includes a policy of paying more than the statutory sick pay as a requirement of awarding a contract. Departments know that in their major urban areas, cleaners, security guards and so on are predominantly of black, Asian and minority ethnic origin, and nearly all cleaners are women regardless of where they work. From the observations of the PCS union, as relayed to me, senior managers and certainly Ministers believe that outsourcing work means they have no responsibility to those facilities management workers, whether in terms of pay, terms and conditions of employment, equality of treatment, or health and safety.

If we look at that indifference to health and safety obligations, we find that even though health and safety laws put clear obligations on civil service departments and facilities management companies working in the same buildings to co-operate and co-ordinate their health and safety at work—that is, regulation 11 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999—in reality we have had immense difficulty in getting the civil service to comply with the law. That indifference leads to what we see as a grotesque admission by the Cabinet Office, which we take as a proxy for the civil service, that it does not know how many facilities management workers have died due to covid, let alone their ethnicity. We know that at least six facilities management outsourced staff have died owing to the virus, all of them of BAME origin.

Turning to the issue of sick pay, in a recent survey—again conducted by PCS—86% of outsourced facilities management workers who responded said that they had often continued to work when they had been unwell because they could not afford to take time off sick.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I thank my Unison comrade for giving way. To support that particular proposition, there is a Unison briefing that shows that in schools in England, many of the private companies are only paying statutory sick pay. Does the hon. Lady agree that this puts people in the position of having to choose between statutory sick pay and going into work, which is more likely to spread the virus?

Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker
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Sadly, I concur with the hon. Gentleman’s observations. Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus the inequality between the sick pay provisions of civil servants and those of outsourced workers employed on civil service contracts.

Through PCS talks during covid-19, most civil service departments adopted a policy of paying their outsourced staff full pay for covid-19-related absences until the end of June 2020. From July 2020, Cabinet Office guidance was updated to allow the arrangement to continue where appropriate. As part of PCS’s campaign to defend and extend the right to full sick pay, it wrote to the Prime Minister in June, setting out the case for all outsourced Government workers to be paid full sick pay from day one. Disappointingly, there has been no response.

Does outsourcing facilities management services achieve social value? The simple answer is no. Section 1(3) of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires a public sector authority to consider how a procurement

“might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the relevant area”.

When awarding central Government contracts, the Cabinet Office is obliged to consider the wider social benefits of procurement to ensure that cost does not override other Government considerations.

I want to take the opportunity to thank you, Mr Pritchard, for overseeing today’s debate. Let us move forward by initiating an open, frank and honest debate, with which I hope the Government will actively engage in the coming period. Value for money is not always delivered by the current procurement and outsourcing arrangements. For a Government who claim to pride themselves on hating waste, the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Government should be ambitious and see what services can now be brought back in-house. Fundamentally, the truth remains that when workers are paid properly and valued, productivity is better. After a long, difficult year for so many workers, the Government have often waxed lyrical. It is high time that politicians clearly show whose back they have—the cleaners, the contact tracers, the security staff and all manner of low-paid staff, or the directors of outsourcing companies.

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Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Pritchard. I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, my position as chair of the PCS parliamentary group and my trade union membership of Unison, of which I have been a member of good standing for 25 years. It is pleasure to see a debate led by my Unison comrade—I believe it is her first in Westminster Hall—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker).

I was in Westminster Hall on Monday evening, when I heard the far-right of the Conservative party wax lyrical about immigration and slagging off other political parties, which were not there to defend themselves. Is it not interesting that no Conservative Back Bencher is here to defend the basic tenet of the Conservative party’s political philosophy of private sector involvement in public services? Those watching the debate will be able to draw their own conclusions as to why that is.

I will concentrate some of my remarks on the Home Office pilot being carried out for asylum case interviews, as touched on by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson). We understand that the company involved is Serco, although the Government have yet to confirm that—it seems to be a secret pilot scheme. We have to ask ourselves why that is the case. Is it because the director general of UK Visas and Immigration happens to be a former employee of Serco? Perhaps that is the reason why Serco has been drafted in to carry out these asylum case interviews.

It has not been touched on in the debate, but it is important when discussing asylum case interviews to say that the Government have argued in court, unfortunately successfully, that outsourced companies—private contractors—carrying out public sector services are exempt from human rights legislation. I have to say that I am fearful of the fact that a private sector company is carrying out asylum case interviews. I would have thought that we would want to make sure that someone’s human rights were respected in an asylum case interview—we would certainly expect their human rights to be protected.

That is one of the key reasons why I have consistently—before I arrived in this place and ever since—been against the outsourcing agenda that the Government have had for the last decade. My friend, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree, and other speakers mentioned the rogues’ gallery involving Serco and its test and trace system. A quite astonishing figure has been provided; the Boston Consulting Group is getting eye-watering consultancy fees for this wonderful tests and trace system that the Government talk about. Some consultants are earning £7,000 per day from the public purse. I think we may be in the wrong job, Mr Pritchard, if that is what some people are getting.

We have heard about the impact of outsourcing on terms and conditions—the cuts to wages and working hours and the refusal of outsourcers to pay the living wage, for example. We have seen great examples of trade unions fighting back on that, including the PCS, Unison and Unite, which have been mentioned.

In the moments I have left, I will ask the Minister a question on public procurement policy notes and the request for contractor relief to continue—I understand it is due to expire on 31 October. The Minister has a letter in her possession from myself, as chair of the PCS parliamentary group, asking whether she could give an update on the public procurement policy notes and if she will be amenable to the request that all staff who have to isolate should be given full pay during that absence. We are of the view that there is an opportunity here to help local communities to manage and recover from covid.

Mr Pritchard, I thank you for being in the chair today. The outsourcing agenda is wrong. I believe that the people of these islands should be entitled to strong public services and strong public sector delivery in public sector hands.

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Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. Does she believe that the local authority in Leicester would be capable of delivering a fully functioning test-and-trace system that would do all that such a system needs to do? I think that is not the case. The private sector has been able to achieve impressive things during the pandemic and provide a lot of public good at speed and in innovative ways. That has been critical in procurement of all manner of goods and services, from PPE to new diagnostics, which have been fundamental to how we have protected the public.

The hon. Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) raised a number about the justice system, but I am afraid that, as a Cabinet Office Minister, I do not have the expertise on some of the issues she raises. I am happy to look into them for her and reply in writing. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) raised a number of issues on contractor pay. I am working on the very issue of value from contractors with my ministerial colleague, Lord Agnew. Some hon. Members may be aware that he has recently set out his concern about some of the reliance in Whitehall on management consultants and that we have infantilised civil servants and deprived some of our brightest public servants of

“opportunities to work on the most challenging, fulfilling and crunchy issues.”

Our reliance on consultants and other contractors can, at times, hinder the development of internal civil service capability. We have discussed that at length and are keen to improve what we do in terms of in-house learning capability and expertise.

I am always glad to see the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) in this Chamber. He talked about civil service churn and skills, and I reassure him that we want to upskill our civil service. We are looking again at the quality of our training, as I mentioned, and he might be interested in the comprehensive Ditchley lecture given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), which talks about some of these issues.

There are many other issues to cover, but I am cognisant of the time. I reassure hon. Members that we need tighter controls around contractor expenditure, supported by better quality data and management information.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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Will the hon. Lady give way?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I do not think I have time to give way. Mr Pritchard, what time does the debate finish?

EU Exit: End of Transition Period

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes. My hon. Friend is a brilliant advocate for the people of Consett and the whole of his constituency. There will not be an extension.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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In the worst-case scenario that the Secretary of State outlined, on the basis of no employment Bill, which the Government had committed to, and the European Union looking to strengthen workers’ rights for zero-hours contract workers, agency workers and those workers susceptible to short-term shift changes, are the Government still committed to at least matching the employment protections of the European Union?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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It is a good question from the hon. Gentleman. He has a distinguished background in the trade union movement and elsewhere in defending workers’ rights, and I pay tribute to him for his work in that area. Yes, we want to ensure that we protect workers’ rights. We will always look at what the EU and other jurisdictions are doing to see where we can match and, where possible, exceed the protections offered.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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The Government recognise the importance of supporting adults to effectively plan for the future. We do recognise that this is a challenging time for everyone, and we aim to support older workers, including women who may be out of work because of covid-19. Through the summer Budget, the Chancellor announced a number of initiatives that will support all claimants, including older women. The hon. Lady will be aware that there is a live Court of Appeal case as of yesterday, and I cannot comment further on this live litigation.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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What steps the Government are taking to help ensure that young workers are protected during the covid-19 outbreak.

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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We have supported people to make a claim for universal credit if they have lost their jobs. We are strengthening our youth offer for 18 to 24-year-olds. This includes introducing a tailored 13-week programme, new youth hubs, and DWP specialist youth employability work coaches. Meanwhile, young people can be referred to apprenticeships or work-related training at any stage.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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I thank the Minister for that answer. However, Glasgow South West constituent Caitlyn Lee, who has worked for the Blythswood Square hotel for five years, will receive only £580 in redundancy pay, which barely covers one month’s rent, because, under statutory redundancy pay law, young workers under the age of 22 are entitled to half a week’s pay whereas workers over 40 get one and a half weeks’ pay. Will the Government address this discrimination, and what will they do to mitigate the mass redundancies of young workers so that they are not disadvantaged any further?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. Young people can be at a particular disadvantage, perhaps due to their limited work experience, and they might potentially have a lower skills level. I am concerned to hear about this issue. Our jobcentres are already talking to claimants about the support they can give to young people and signposting them to places that can support them into employment, such as the National Careers Service, in giving advice on how they can look for further work. We have also announced our new kick-start scheme for Great Britain—a £2 billion fund to support young people at risk of long-term unemployment.

Covid-19 Update

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd June 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend is a great champion of those industries and, as I have said to colleagues in the House already, we are doing a huge amount to engage with them and to support them.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP) [V]
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The Prime Minister said in his statement that he is keen to get people back into work, but we have also seen the benefits of home working, particularly in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, with staff having gone the extra mile to support business through the schemes. However, the Prime Minister will be aware that HMRC has now launched a massive redundancy scheme, which could affect 2,000 staff. What message does he believe he sends when he says that people should get back to work but Government Departments want to put people out of work?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I think that people have to work from home if they can. That remains the guidance, and of course it is up to employers and employees to decide whether they need to get back to their workplaces to do their jobs. On HMRC and the sad redundancies that the hon. Gentleman mentions, I will certainly look at that, though I think that, obviously, it is also important to cut the cost of government.