Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 9th June 2022

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I think everyone is keen that Holyhead should flourish, but inevitably there are competitive routes for transport. It is inevitable in any free market system that people will choose the routes that they decide to use. But there are also issues with the Northern Ireland protocol and, if the hon. Gentleman continues to attend as regularly as he does, he will no doubt hear announcements in this House on the protocol.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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11. What recent assessment his Department has made of the impact on the cost of living of the UK having left the EU.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg)
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Her Majesty’s Government understand that many people are worried about the effect of rising prices. That is why we recently announced over £15 billion of additional support, targeted particularly at those in the greatest need. That brings Government support for the cost of living this year to over £37 billion.

We need to look at the wider context here. It is challenging to separate out the effects of Brexit on the UK economy. Indeed, it is worth noting, as Julian Jessop has been pointing out, the very high rate of food inflation in Germany, which I do not believe is an effect of Brexit. We have also seen an illegal war in Russia and supply chain problems following the pandemic. So we will move on with the Brexit freedoms Bill and the Procurement Bill, which will help us to get more opportunities for growth from leaving the European Union.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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But Brexit-related trade barriers have driven up the cost of food in the UK by 6%, making life harder for everyone struggling with the cost of living crisis. So severe is the harm that 60% of leave voters accept that Brexit has driven up the cost of living. Does the Minister accept that, and what do the Government intend to do about the rising cost of food across these islands?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I do not know where these figures come from. The hon. Gentleman himself said it, but I am not sure there is any greater source for these figures, though perhaps he will make them available in the Library if there is some better evidence for them.

What we have done by not adding controls on 1 July is ensure we do not add costs to things coming into this country. We believe in free trade. We do not believe in non-tariff barriers. We believe in being as open as possible. That is why my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is negotiating dozens of free trade agreements, many of them already successfully adopted. That is what we will continue to do because a free and open market reduces prices, which we can do as we are no longer under the yoke—the onerous yoke—of the European Union.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 3rd February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My right hon. Friend raises some very important points. The Commission has asked that the figures be made available to all Members as soon as possible. The figures now range from £7 billion to £13 billion for the cost and from 12 years to 20 years for the decant. It seems to me that if we were to have a decant of 20 years, we would never come back to this Palace and that £13 billion or possibly even £14 billion of taxpayers’ money is not justifiable.

My right hon. Friend is also right that it has gone on for too long. We have been waiting for years for the perfect scheme instead of getting on with what we ought to do. He says it would be 2027 at the earliest, which is correct in part, but realistically it would probably be 2031, because the northern estate would have to be ready for people to move into it. I am glad to say that, with much thanks to your leadership of the Commission, Mr Speaker, we have been getting on with things before restoration and renewal that have been taken out of the scheme.

The Elizabeth tower is emerging butterfly-like from its chrysalis day by day to reveal an exceptionally beautiful part of the Palace. The fire safety programme has been proceeded with, so there are 4,126 sprinkler heads and 8 miles of pipe that are an important part of protecting life in the event of fire and are some protection for fire suppression that would be beneficial to the building.

By and large, the cast iron roofs have been restored in a very big programme as it is thought to be the largest expanse of cast iron roof in Europe. We are also getting on with the northern estate. It is really important that we get on with things and do them at a proportionate cost. We cannot possibly be out of here for 20 years; I do not think any Member thinks that is reasonable.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I put on record my role as chair of the Threehills Community Supermarket, which will be Scotland’s first community supermarket. It opened its larder last week and the feedback has been positive. People using the service are on low wages or benefits. Will the Leader of the House undertake to place in the Commons Library a copy of the Government’s evidenced review of the systematic drivers of the need for food aid, which was due to be published by the Department for Work and Pensions 18 months ago, so we can facilitate an open and transparent debate on the serious matter of food aid provision?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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May I congratulate the Threehills Community Supermarket in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and him on the work that he has clearly done to support it? The issue relates to the cost of living and what we have been doing to help people with their livelihoods, for which the rise in the national living wage to £9.50 in April, which will leave a full-time worker £5,000 a year better off, and the cut to the universal credit taper and the increased work allowance, which will give 2 million families an extra £1,000 a year in their earnings, are of fundamental importance. On the report that he is asking for, I will take that up with the Department.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 21st October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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This really is a very concerning matter. It comes down to the whole approach that needs to be taken to tackle violence against women and girls. The Government do have a strategy on that and there is an extra £5 million for the safety of women at night fund, in addition to the £25 million safer streets fund. We are also increasing penalties for stalking and harassment, and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has been passed. It is all about ensuring that our society is safe for women and girls and taking the legislative and policy steps that are necessary to make it a safer place.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I associate myself with the Leader of the House’s comments about James Brokenshire, who was the Immigration Minister when I first arrived in the House and helped with cases, and, of course, the great Sir David Amess, who always gave me, as someone who led for the SNP in summer Adjournment debates, support, advice and encouragement, no matter what the politics.

Data shows that in the United Kingdom, out of 282,000 tonnes of surplus food, just 9% is donated to food aid charities for human consumption, and it is estimated that 80,000 tonnes that could be donated for human consumption is not. May we have a debate and a statement on food waste and surplus food, to address this serious problem?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I must confess that I was not aware of those figures, but it does seem extremely wasteful and it would be beneficial if food that is perfectly usable were used. I will take the matter up with the relevant Department.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
2nd reading & 3rd reading
Thursday 1st July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am, obviously, torn on this matter, because I believe in local decision making. I believe that headmasters and headmistresses throughout the country can show leadership. Some sports days are going ahead. I will be going, on 7 July, to the Hill House School field day, which is going to be arranged in a covid-secure manner. I encourage the leadership of schools to work with the regulations in a way that is allowed and that means things can happen. It is sometimes easier, administratively, to stop things and say no than it is to look at how to be positive and allow things to happen. I reiterate the point that I made last week: while in some cases a whole class may be required to isolate, many settings use seating plans and other means to identify close contacts in order to minimise the number of individuals who need to isolate. Yes, we should push from the top, but there should also be a response locally, from individual schools, to try to ensure that children get to school as often as is possible.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Campaigners such as Ailsa MacKenzie gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee two years ago and secured a commitment from the Department for Work and Pensions to place a remedial order to extend eligibility for widowed parent’s allowance and bereavement support payments to cohabitees with children. Given that 60 days—not including recess—are required to consider the proposal, will the Leader of the House liaise with the DWP to ensure that the remedial order is put in place as soon as possible, so that people such as Ailsa MacKenzie and their relatives and family get this state support?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point and is so right to be defending his constituents. Yes, I will take this matter up with the DWP and try to facilitate what he asks for.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 17th June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I notice that the use of private cars has increased post pandemic, as people are very keen on driving, as I must confess am I. I assure my hon. Friend that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has in place a number of measures to increase the number of practical driving tests. After lockdown, it went to six rather than seven tests a day, but since 14 June it has gone back to seven tests a day per examiner, which increases capacity across the national network by an average of 15,000 to 20,000 tests a month. My hon. Friend may wish to raise this at Transport questions on 24 June, but yes, we are going to have backlogs and we have to make a really big effort to get Britain moving, and most of us want to move in our motors.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I thank the Leader of the House for his kind words for Scotland tomorrow evening, as we will be playing a country that Conservative Members regularly remind us is aspiring to achieve its own independence.

On a more serious point, cancelled flights mean that individuals such as my constituent Mohammad Gohar find themselves stuck abroad after having visited dying relatives. They are now struggling to get back because the Department for Work and Pensions has, in its wisdom, decided to stop their universal credit because they have been abroad for three weeks. That seems a very-heavy handed approach. Could we have a debate or a statement on people who find themselves stuck abroad after having visited dying relatives, to ensure that they do not have their universal credit stopped and can have the money to find themselves the way back home?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman raises a difficult point. There are very sensible rules in place for normal times, but these are abnormal times. Therefore, when, because of a reduction in flights and the complexities of international travel at the moment, people are delayed, through no fault of their own, there is certainly an argument for sympathy. What I do not know is whether the system that Parliament has passed into law allows for any discretion. However, if the hon. Gentleman gives me the details, I will take the case up directly with the Department for Work and Pensions on his behalf.

House Business during the Pandemic

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Monday 8th June 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am sorry that the hon. Lady does not want people to be caricatured, because I have a feeling that she quite likes caricaturing people from time to time. Pots and kettles come to mind. I should like to be very clear on people who are shielding. They will be able to appear remotely in interrogative proceedings, and they will have proxy votes if they want them, or if they prefer, they will be able to pair; it will be a choice for them to make. This is really important, and for the hon. Lady to suggest I am trying to do anything else indicates the level of confusion about this debate. [Interruption.] I heard a noise as if somebody wanted me to give way.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Those who are shielding cannot participate in this debate because it is an emergency debate, in which only physical participation is allowed. Why should those who are shielding not participate in this debate?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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It is a very good point, and a fair point for the hon. Gentleman to make, but you will see, Madam—Mr Deputy Speaker. A sort of transformation has taken place. Even without haircuts, Mr Deputy Speaker’s hairstyle is not as lustrous as Madam Deputy Speaker’s, and it is a different colour, as the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) helpfully points out.

However, look at what has been happening in this debate—this is happening as a debate. Questions are coming in at all angles, testing the Government’s view. Why? Because we are here physically. I am not closed minded as Leader of the House. If it could work, with people who are shielded and cannot be here zooming in and making interventions, I would not seek to stop that out of stubbornness, but I do not yet see how it is possible to make a debate like this, with a vibrant exchange of views. I have not counted how many interventions I have taken, but how would this debate have flowed? How could we have got the exchange of opinion with people randomly popping up? How would they have come in? Would there have been a tower of Babel as they shouted over each other? Would they have to be on mute or off mute, and how would we know when they came on? Would a list have to be prepared in advance? Would someone have to apply to Mr Speaker in advance to get on the list to intervene on what I was going to say before they knew what I was going to say? It is really difficult to make a debate work with virtual interventions.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman has now made two interventions, so I wonder why he is suddenly so concerned about other people’s interventions. I can see that we should perhaps have a Standing Order to say that he may intervene but no other hon. or right hon. Members may do so.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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The Leader of the House talks at great length about responsibilities. As Members of this House, we have responsibilities also to those who are employed here and work in this building, so why are the trade unions so concerned about some of these arrangements and deem this place an unsafe workplace?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman allows me to pay tribute to Marianne Cwynarski, who is in charge of these affairs for the House. She has worked incredibly hard to ensure that the people who work in the House are kept safe, that the best practices are ensured and that the numbers required for the physical return of the House are not that much greater than were required before we were back sitting physically. The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but the House authorities deserve genuine credit for dealing with that.

A true Parliament of the people, in which our elected representatives come together to discuss fully and debate the Government’s agenda and their response to the events of the day, is what we need. That covers what we are doing to fulfil the promises that we made at the general election and on which we were elected. I now turn to the question of how we conduct our proceedings in ways that lead by example.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 27th February 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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We are back to 2b or not 2b, which seems to be my hon. Friend’s question. It is a procedural motion of a standard and routine kind that we need for the progression of business.

I am delighted that the European Scrutiny Committee will be bringing its eagle eye to look at the questions of sovereignty. My hon. Friend chairs that Committee with such brilliance. When I served on it for some years, it was one of the best Committees possible to be on. The diligence he applies to this is a model for us all.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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According to estimates by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, there are up to 90 reports a day of online harms—that is one every 16 minutes. Given that the 13 voluntary codes of social media regulation appear to have failed, may we have a statement or debate on online harms regulations, so that we can get commitments from Ministers about Ofcom’s proposed enforcement powers?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The online harms White Paper sets out our plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. Ahead of that legislation, the Government will publish interim codes of practice on tackling the use of the internet by terrorists and those engaged in child sexual abuse and exploitation. This will ensure that companies take action now to tackle content that threatens our national security and the physical safety of children. These matters will obviously be discussed in this House.

Business of the House

Debate between Chris Stephens and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 13th February 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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This is an issue for many Members of Parliament—indeed, including for me in North East Somerset. In our manifesto, we were clear that we would protect and enhance the green belt, improve poor-quality land, increase biodiversity, and make our beautiful countryside more usable by local communities. To safeguard green spaces we will prioritise brownfield development for regeneration of our cities and towns. The national planning policy framework makes it clear that only in exceptional circumstances may a green-belt boundary be altered using the development plan process of consultation with local people. In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, given that there is consultation, I am not sure that we need an immediate debate.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I would like to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 141, signed by 56 colleagues across five political parties.

[That this House acknowledges that the Department for Work and Pensions commissioned an evidence review on the drivers of food bank use in 2018; notes the Government’s commitment to this House to publish the findings of the review; further notes the Government’s failure to date to publish those findings; and urges the Government to provide a clear deadline as a matter of urgency for the publication of the review to inform a public debate on the reasons for growing demand for food aid provision in the UK.]

The EDM concerns a Department for Work and Pensions review of food bank use that should have been published six months ago. May we have a statement from the Government on when this review will be published so that we can have an informed debate on food aid provision and the increasing demand for it across these islands?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The issues surrounding food banks are various and complicated, but it is worth bearing it in mind that there are 400,000 fewer people in absolute poverty than there were in 2010, and income inequality is down, so great strides are being made in ensuring that there is less poverty in this country. The publication date of reports is a matter to take up directly with the relevant Department.