Debates between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 10th Dec 2020

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 29th February 2024

(5 days, 2 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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A lot has happened since the Leader of the House and I last faced each other, and I commend her for her intervention in last week’s events. She acted, as she said, to defend the rights of minority parties. That was the right thing to do, but what a dismal reflection on Westminster that the rights of minority party MPs in this place now need protecting and defending. The whole House knows how we got here. At some point we will get to the bottom of what pressure there was, exactly what dealings were done behind Victorian screens, and what “simply urging the Speaker” actually meant. To be fair, some Labour figures were fessing up at the weekend, or perhaps gloating, about their tactics—all because the SNP wanted to debate an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

People might ask why I am not tackling the Leader of the House today on her Government’s economic policies, Brexit or child poverty. We will return to our normal business questions exchanges of course, but at the core of our work as MPs is that all Members and parties must be treated fairly, and seen to be treated fairly. For as long as Scotland sends MPs here, we will expect and demand that. No one party can be allowed to change the rules by bullying. There is not a great deal that the Leader of the House and I agree on, but I know that on this we do. What use can she make of her offices to ensure that we never find ourselves in that sorry procedural mess again, and can she tell us when the replacement SNP Opposition day will be?

Finally, after the giant lobby of Parliament by campaigners yesterday, I must again raise the Government’s repeated delays in delivering full and fair compensation to those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal. I know that the Leader of the House recognises the fully justified depth of anger about this. Can she tell us what progress has been made ahead of the Budget to set up the structures of the compensation scheme transparently and in consultation with victims and their families, so that it is ready to start allocating funds at the earliest opportunity?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and I understand why people will have to wait for normal combat to be resumed between us. I disagree with one thing that she, and other hon. Members, have said: that this Chamber, and Westminster collectively, did not cover itself in glory last week. I think that the issue has been about the actions of particular individuals and what they have done. Many Members of this House did a good thing last week by standing up to protect the rights, the foundation and the rulebook that we operate on. With regard to those who were caught up in something else, many Members have recognised that that was the wrong thing to do, and that we need to address that. The Government will give the SNP more time to have the debates that it ought to have. I understand that you, Mr Speaker, have commissioned the Procedure Committee to look at the particular procedural issues that happened last week. I understand that the scope of that work is narrow, so it should be done swiftly. I hope that it will be concluded before the SNP has its next debate, so that it can have confidence in how that debate will run.

On the hon. Lady’s final, very important point, we have just heard from the Paymaster General, who is leading on the issue of infected blood on behalf of the Government. She is right that I have very strong views about this, but they are shared by the Paymaster General and all those on the Government Benches. That is why we set up the inquiry, and why we set up the compensation study to run concurrently with it, so that we would not have to wait any longer before people got proper redress. I know that the Paymaster General is working on this very swiftly. He updates me on a regular basis, and we will keep the House informed.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 8th February 2024

(3 weeks, 5 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I associate myself with the shadow Leader of the House’s comments about Brianna Ghey and her remarkable parents?

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House about the cost of the Tories’ secret and highly sensitive report to Cabinet on the state of the Union. Hansard records that not one word of her answer reflected my question—not one syllable. Instead, she read out to the Chamber a video script about bingo and made a joke about monkeys. The week before, I asked the Leader of the House about the Electoral Commission’s concerns over Tory voter ID plans. Again, there was not one word in Hansard about Tory voter ID—not a peep. Instead, she read her prepared script attacking the SNP. In fact, Hansard reveals that week after week, not only do my questions go unanswered, but they are completely ignored. Week after week, we get a clickbait video for her personal YouTube channel. Surely that behaviour demeans her office and disrespects this House. She is here to answer questions from Members.

Returning to that state of the Union report to Cabinet in July 2020, it aimed to undermine the Scottish Government and the Scottish independence cause, which were apparently a Tory top priority at the height of the pandemic. It came to light last week, and no wonder the Leader of the House’s Government wanted to keep it under wraps. It contains more grim news for any remaining supporters of the Union. My questions again are: how much did it cost taxpayers, what was its purpose, and what strategy was it asking the Cabinet to endorse? Do the Union strategy and operations committees still exist? While she is at it, I would be pleased to know the details of the “highly professional attack dogs”, as described by one journalist, who were employed around that time in an attempt to counter independence support. Unlike the Prime Minister, I am not a betting woman, but I would wager £1,000 that I will not get answers to those today, either.

I will be writing to the Leader of the House with all the questions she has ignored just this year for starters. My question today, though, just needs a simple yes or no, and I challenge her then to sit back down and resist the video script. Will she at the very least attempt to find answers to my questions when she receives them in writing, as she refuses to do so here? Can we have a debate on the role and function of the Leader of the House?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady can have a debate on the role and function of the Leader of the House every Thursday at approximately 10.30 am. I hope it is colleagues’ experience that when they ask me questions, I either furnish them with answers if it is about the business of the House or I follow up with Departments and write to them. I am afraid that, as Hansard will show, her questions to me and to various Departments are sometimes hard to fathom.

The hon. Lady asked me about a particular piece of polling. I can certainly write to the Cabinet Office, although she indicated that she may kindly save me the trouble; in that case, I will just send her letter to the Cabinet Office for it to respond to her. But it comes in a week when the Scottish Government’s own costs for polling have been exposed.

I hope that hon. Members disagree with the hon. Lady’s assessment that I demean my office, although that is high praise indeed from the Scottish National party—I think my party has some way to go before we reach 22 live police investigations. While it may be true that those who live in Labour areas are 40% more likely to be a victim of crime, I think SNP politicians are probably 40% more likely to be investigated for one.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 1st February 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Meal do naidheachd, Madam Deputy Speaker.

We saw a softer side to the Leader of the House last week. “The Prime Minister is a great dad”, she loyally read out from No. 10’s script. “He gives a lot to charity”, she whispered. Then, right on cue, normal service resumed and she was thundering fury at the Scots for not voting Tory. She asked me a question that got quite a response in Scotland: “Why do you think us Tory ‘rotters’”—her word, not mine—“are so desperate to keep Scotland in the Union?” Why, indeed? It is generally though that Conservatives act in their own self-interest. Anyway, Scots have been totting up all the great things about being in the UK: the gift of Brexit making us poorer faster than even the worst forecasts predicted; 14 years of grinding, endless austerity; and a crippling debt burden of more than 100% of GDP, just for starters.

However, the Leader of the House is not alone in her desperation to keep Scotland lashed tight to Westminster. She will remember seeing a secret document presented to the Cabinet in July 2020 by her colleague the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The existence of that document was revealed at the covid inquiry this week. Finalised at the height of the pandemic, it was entitled “The State of the Union” and was a blatant attempt by her Government to politicise the pandemic and undermine the Scottish Government when trust in Government messaging was crucial. It asked the Cabinet to endorse some sort of strategy, most details of which sadly are missing from the inquiry’s version. It required polling, research and data analysis, all at a time when Scotland’s First Minister and Government were focused on and doing their damnedest to protect the people of Scotland.

No. 10 was slithering from one scandal to another. We know that a Union strategy committee and a Union operations committee were set up to mimic the strategy and operations committees that helped create the monster of Brexit. The right hon. Lady will agree that considerable resources were required, diverting cash and personnel from fighting the pandemic. It must be made clear to the public who funded that. Will she ask her colleagues to give a statement on the project, laying out why it was an appropriate use of governmental resources, what it did and what it is felt to have achieved—its key performance indicators, let us say—particularly given the times in which it was conceived? Finally, the Leader of the House will recall that the state of the Union report found, among many things, that 82% of young voters in Scotland want independence. Is she surprised?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady talks about normal service, and we have had normal service from the SNP this morning: the full bingo card of textbook, standard nationalist operating procedure. Failure to take responsibility for the things that it is responsible for: tick. Blame others: tick. Demonise opponents: tick. Distract from the indefensible things that we have found about this week: tick. A complete lack of self-awareness: tick.

Only the hon. Lady could come to this House and raise the issue of the covid inquiry this week. Perhaps she should have spent a little more time watching the evidence delivered by her own First Minister. We are having a covid inquiry and we did a lessons learned exercise because we want to ensure that this nation can be resilient in future and we want to learn the lessons. The hon. Lady’s party has been less than forthcoming on a similar ambition for its performance in Scotland. I would ask her to reflect on that. The only thing missing from the hon. Lady’s question is that she has somehow failed to accuse the UK Government of being responsible for an escaped macaque from the Highland zoo.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend is right that there has been a tremendous amount of discussion of these issues on the Floor of the House. As the Secretary of State acknowledged earlier, the Standing Orders protect time for debate on statutory instruments to 90 minutes. I am sure that my hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate on a particular topic, but the Standing Orders will protect the time tomorrow.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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There is little to add to this short statement, as there will be more discussion on this latest legislation tomorrow. I want to state on the record that I welcome the progress that has been made, particularly as a former Northern Ireland spokesperson. Of course, there is much to be done, so I send my sincerest best wishes to all those in the Assembly who, hopefully soon, will step up to their places and their great responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her support in this matter, and I very much welcome her party’s support, too.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 25th January 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I associate myself with the remarks about Holocaust Memorial Day. I ask the House to note that tonight is Burns night, when we celebrate the work of Scotland’s great national bard.

A new year, a new Tory civil war—just what the UK needs—with talk of doom loops, massacres and extinctions. If only Members of the Leader of the House’s party had listened to her the last time she wooed them for leadership. She warned them that if they voted for the former Chancellor as leader it would “murder the party”. I know that the Leader of the House is furiously busy with all her “Minister for clickbait” responsibilities—those anti-Scottish articles and sneering videos do not write themselves—but as her Government grind, punch-drunk and exhausted, to an election, should we not debate some of the key legacies of the last 14 years of Tory rule?

Where should we start? There are still the scandalously unresolved scandals, such as infected blood, the WASPI women—Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign—and Post Office Horizon, to name a very few, but has the Leader of the House had time to reflect on recent comments from Sir Michael Marmot, professor of public health at University College London? He said that Britain in 2024 is starting to suffer from Victorian diseases again, and that

“Britain has become a poor country with a few rich people…it’s worse to be poor in Britain than in most other European countries…. Poor people in Britain have a lower income than Slovenia.”

Perhaps the Leader of the House will cast her eye over the latest Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, which says that more than one in five people were in poverty in 2021-22, with about 6 million in “very deep poverty” that same year. Has she not managed to look at that yet? That is unsurprising, as the Tories seem genuinely untroubled by poverty in the UK. My colleagues and I have asked them about it many times, but their eyes just glaze over—comfortable, I guess, with the choices they have made, as the PM has said.

Perhaps we should start our Tory legacy debates with an emerging threat. The Electoral Commission chair warned recently that the Government’s strict new rules on voter ID risk excluding certain voter groups and leave the Conservative party open to the charge of bias. I and many others have thought for some time that this was simply an attempt at voter suppression from the Government, so does the Leader of the House agree with an erstwhile Cabinet colleague that the new Tory rules are simply, as he put it, an attempt at “gerrymandering”? Will she bring a debate on this important issue to the House before the next general election?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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What a bunch of rotters we are, with our anti-Scottish articles. It appears that the hon. Lady is planning to follow in the footsteps of many a great antipodean election guru by using a brilliant new strategy of equating criticism of the SNP’s performance with criticism of Scotland itself. The latter is a landmass of approximately 30,000 square miles, populated by brilliant, creative, stoic people; the former is a ramshackle separatist movement, full of people who have turned maladministration into an art form.

There is one tiny flaw in this new political tactic from the SNP: if we Conservatives dislike Scotland so much, for some reason the hon. Lady never gets round to explaining, why on earth would we strive so hard to keep it part of the Union of the United Kingdom? Why would this Conservative Government give Scotland the largest funding settlement it has ever had? Why would we have offered its citizens who were waiting for NHS treatment additional help and options, which the Scottish Government turned down?

If I wanted to do Scotland down, I would join, donate and campaign for the SNP, to whose members I would point out that the trailblazer for bringing back Victorian diseases to Britain is Glasgow. Watching the hon. Lady’s inaction, and that of her party, is like watching your much-loved neighbourhood being clobbered by a bunch of gangsters—let us call them the “hole in the budget” gang—hitting businesses, taking your cash, making your life a misery and keeping the local police force very busy. This new political strategy from the SNP, like everything else that it does, will fail.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Tuesday 23rd January 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I too pay tribute to Tony Lloyd. It was really moving to listen to the contributions of his friends and colleagues, which reflected the warm and decent person he was.

I regret that we are having to deal with Executive formation in this place yet again, because it is always best for the democratically elected Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to be in their place and governing in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland. The longer this drags on, the more the people of Northern Ireland suffer, which is frankly unforgiveable.

I regret, too, that we are seeing parliamentary business created on the hoof by this Government, particularly in such a serious and sensitive area, but here we are again. Many of us warned of exactly this problem arising. We are here because of a mess of the UK Government’s making, but they refuse to acknowledge that the easiest way of resolving it would be closer alignment with the EU, which would make much of this go away. Instead, the Brexit bourach rumbles on—a bourach this Government caused and are unwilling to face up to and sort out. My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) will have much more to say on this tomorrow.

I have one question. Will this Government ever acknowledge their role in creating this mess and reconsider their hard-line rejection of the sensible option of returning to the single market?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady tempts me to go into detail on the single market, the customs union and the price we would have to pay for that, but you will be pleased to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I will not.

The hon. Lady will know that we have twice extended the period for Executive formation through primary legislation and, despite the best efforts, restoration was not possible before the formation period expired on 18 January. She will know that bringing forward this legislation has been tied to talks and negotiations, which is why we have the current timetable.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 18th January 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I know that this issue, which my hon. Friend raises almost weekly, is of great concern to him, and that he wants to ensure that the final outcome of the process is as good as it can be. I will again make sure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has heard what he has said. The next session of questions to the Secretary of State will be on 22 January, and my hon. Friend may wish to raise the matter with him directly. This is the kind of information that should be in the public domain, so that people can make good decisions, although on some matters—relating to security concerns, for example—it may be sensible to redact.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Let me start by associating myself with all the remarks about Tony Lloyd, whom I always found to be a very good and decent man.

Once again, I am indebted to the Leader of the House. Her eccentric video last week, in which she joked about Tupperware and the Stone of Destiny, excited quite a response in Scotland. “Why is she always on about Scotland?” people ask. The Tories have given us a joke Minister for common sense, and now it looks as if we have a Minister for clickbait.

Scotland does seem to be just a big joke for the Leader of the House. The brief seems clear: to rubbish and insult Scots every week during business questions. Of course she is not alone—this seems to be Tory policy nowadays—but she is adding value now by producing full-page articles in the papers about how awful Scotland is, along with a new clickbait video every week. All that effort, Mr Speaker! Although, given the very bad news for her party in this week's YouGov poll, perhaps these joke videos are in fact auditions. Perhaps it is not so much “stand up and fight” as stand-up comedian.

Meanwhile, the record of the right hon. Lady’s own Government is absolutely nothing to joke about, with destitution rising, doctors on strike crippling the English NHS, sea coasts foul with pollution, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the breaching of international law, unresolved scandals piling up, and the crushing impact of one of the worst Tory jokes of all, Brexit. But before we are treated to—oh, I don’t know, perhaps an attack on the Scottish Government and praise for the bullish actions of the zombie Scotland Office—let me say this. Surely Scotland can find a better use for—what is it now, over 12 million quid?—than funding that ever-expanding propaganda unit beavering away behind the scenes, undermining the work of the Scottish Parliament and, of course, assisting the Leader of the House with her scripts each week.

Closer to this place, however, we have the Westminster joke of the other place, with its 860 or so ermine-clad peers but one notable absentee. The right hon. Lady’s Scottish Tory friend and colleague Baroness Mone is currently not a sitting Member, because she has taken leave of absence by her own choice. It is being reported in the Daily Record that Baroness Mone claims she is still a Conservative as far as she is concerned, because she never had the Whip removed. Can the Leader of the House confirm that if Baroness Mone resumes her position in the other place tomorrow, as I believe she is entitled to do, she can sit as a Conservative? If not, exactly when was the Whip removed? Can the Leader of the House make time to answer that question before reading out this week's hilarious clickbait script?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady should thank me. I have been giving her publicity that money cannot buy, and I think it is encouraging that we have generated such a following and such an interest in what goes on in the Chamber during business questions. Let me make it clear to the hon. Lady that I am not talking Scotland down. I am talking the Scottish National party down, because it has been an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. The stoicism of the Scottish people in dealing with their inept Government deserves great credit.

Each week the hon. Lady talks about our record on delivery and invites me to make the comparison with the Scottish Government. I shall try to do so this week without mentioning the appalling record of the SNP Government, and just invite people to contrast our record with theirs.

In the UK, we have the largest rail infrastructure investment since Victorian times. We have massive regeneration projects across the UK. More than 1,000 miles of major roads have been refurbished; compare that with the A9, please. We have 20 times as much offshore wind capacity as we had when we entered office. Eighteen million households have full-fibre broadband. How is the Scottish Government’s broadband rollout going? Then there are our hospitals, mental health facilities, 50 new surgical hubs, new nuclear power stations and record investments in home and flood defences, and in the coming financial year our research and development spend will be about £20 billion.

In 2010, the strategic defence and security review greenlit a couple of aircraft carriers and, six years later, one was commissioned. That complex 65,000-tonne warship was built through the carrier alliance, a wonderful example of the UK supply chain working together. After the same six-year timeframe, the SNP is still building a couple of ferries, which are £308 million over budget. For context, the overspend is three times the original budget, and I now understand that these pioneering green vessels will run on diesel.

The SNP Government have been an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. They have been found out. They are incapable and incorrigible, and now they are in trouble.

The hon. Lady’s final question is a matter for the House of Lords, not the House of Commons.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 11th January 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Bliadhna mhath ùr—happy new year to you, Mr Speaker, and to everyone in this place and watching.

Some positive news to start our first business questions of 2024: recent data from the Office for National Statistics and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre—the Commons Library equivalent—shows that Scotland’s gender pay gap is at a record low, and almost half that of the UK as a whole. Women’s weekly full-time pay has risen more than 10% in the last year. Any gap is, of course, too high, but I am sure that the Leader of the House would like to acknowledge the Scottish Government’s gender pay gap action plan, the first in the UK, which undoubtedly has helped to achieve those welcome results.

The Leader of the House’s Government could take several steps to help end the gender pay gap and advance equality right across these isles. After repeatedly shelving the employment Bill, they could finally act to make workplaces fairer, particularly in the current cost of living crisis, which we know impacts women more. They could legislate for mandatory gender and ethnicity pay gap reporting. They could finally deliver compensation for WASPI women—Women Against State Pension Inequality —who have waited far too long to receive justice. More broadly, they could tackle the gender pension gap, as yearly incomes among pensioners are on average more than £7,000 lower for women.

While the Leader of the House considers her response to those suggestions, could she also respond to reports in the media that her Government blocked a minority ethnic woman from joining the board of Channel 4 without offering a reason? I am curious to hear what action she took in response to the recent comments by the Home Secretary, and whether she will condemn them now. They do nothing to dispel perceptions that a culture of misogyny in the UK Government is hampering progress on these issues. As she is a former Minister for Women and Equalities, I am sure that these matters are close to her heart, so will she support a debate on them, where perhaps some solutions might finally be agreed?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I also wish the hon. Lady a very happy new year. I do welcome the good news on the gender pay gap in Scotland. It is nice to see the SNP championing some good progress in Scotland and giving credit where it is due.

With regard to the UK Government’s record, we are making good progress: since 2010 we have an additional 2 million women in work. As the author of the women in work road map, which looks at every aspect of a woman’s life and tries to address the reasons why she is financially disadvantaged right through her life, from when she leaves school, through raising a family to the pensions gap, I know that this Government are committed to delivering on those disparities.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of Channel 4. I do not know the answer to that today, but I shall certainly ensure that the relevant Department has heard what she said.

The hon. Lady will know what the Home Secretary has said about the other matter she raised. I hope she also knows that the Home Secretary is a very decent fellow who loves his wife greatly. They have been through a lot in recent years as a couple and the hon. Lady will also know that.

I will conclude by adding some further good news about Scotland, which I hope the hon. Lady will welcome. I am delighted that part of the Stone of Destiny has been recovered from SNP headquarters. I am sure that is a great relief to all Members. It is easy to lose things, I know, like a couple of billion quid from your budget, but I am sorry to hear that the SNP has taken as much care of it as it has taken as the steward of Scotland’s public services. Happily, the Tupperware container it was stored in has protected it during its stay and the police raids on that premises. I join my Scottish colleagues in encouraging the SNP to find a more suitable home for it.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 14th December 2023

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ùr a th’uile daoine—[Translation: “Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone.”]

Last week, the Leader of the House was unwilling or unable to answer my question about her Government’s latest immigration mess. Instead, she gave Scots another lecture from Westminster, this time about morality and her own global leadership. A lecture on morality from this Tory Government: pantomime season is truly upon us. Was she talking about the morality of her “pile the bodies high” Government, or perhaps recalling the time her Government said, “We are breaking the law, but only in a limited way”? Is it the morality that allows water companies to make a fortune in profits as children get sick swimming in raw sewage off the coast of England, or the morality that forces families of service personnel to live in quarters so riddled with damp and mould that they are judged too poor for human habitation? Perhaps that is the morality she had in mind. Could it be the morality of the return of near-Victorian levels of destitution across the UK? Perhaps she was thinking of the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign. Perhaps she could lecture them about morality and see what they have to say to her.

Before the Leader of the House launches into—mercifully—her last video nasty of the year, I hope she can answer my question today. It is the same question I asked last week, which remains unanswered and mired in confusion thanks to her Prime Minister. This morning’s statement on “Citizens’ rights” might well address it, but we should have debated such drastic changes before now in this place anyway. It is supposed to be the season of goodwill, but so many of our constituents are now deeply concerned and frightened by the announcement, so I will ask again on their behalf: if the spouse or partner of a British citizen is currently living in the UK on a leave to remain visa, can they be deported if their salary is less than £38,700? Yes or no?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me start by wishing the hon. Lady and her SNP colleagues a very happy Christmas. I point her to what the Prime Minister said yesterday in Prime Minister’s questions about further information coming forward in the new year. I said last week that I fully understand that people in particular professions, including the armed forces, will want answers. My office stands ready to facilitate any particular cases or requests in the meantime. Transition arrangements will be announced shortly, as the Prime Minister put on record loud and clear yesterday.

I do not know where to start with the hon. Lady’s lecture on morality. She mentioned vulnerable people, yet this week the SNP announced that Scotland’s national care service will be pushed back three years. She mentioned the armed forces, but her Government are insisting that they pay higher tax, and this Government are compensating them for that. If she wants to find Victorian levels of rats and rickets, she should go to SNP-run local authorities.

I think we should have a festive round-up on SNP morality: 12 hours of police questioning, 11 grand in roaming charges, 10 years without school inspections, nine sham embassies, eight years of poor child mental health, seven years without ferries, six years shirking welfare, five hundred million overspent on Edinburgh’s tram, four million to install a heat pump, three high-profile arrests, two overseas jollies, and a dodgy Jaguar EV. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I have succeeded in bringing a smile to the hon. Lady’s face. I must thank her for being the gift that keeps on giving at business questions. I hope that in 2024 better things are destined for the Scottish people: better education, health, transport and opportunities, and better value for the taxes they pay. I hope that all their MPs will come here, represent their interests and take responsibility for the authority that they are given. That is my Christmas wish.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 7th December 2023

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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It is tempting to forestall and dismantle now any spin that the Leader of the House may be inclined to bring up on Scottish education issues, given Westminster’s shocking record. Following her outburst against Scotland’s health service workers last week, I must clear up some things. Scotland watches her “odd” weekly rants, as the Scottish press dubs them, with concern and alarm. Let me give some useful facts for her and Scotland about the Scottish NHS: health funding is at record highs; staffing levels are also at a record high, with far more staff per head than England; we have the best performing A&E units and the highest number of GPs per head in the UK, no prescriptions charges, and still not a single day lost to industrial disputes in the Scottish NHS. There is always room for improvement but, as the Leader of the House reaches for her latest penny dreadful script, she can rest assured that I will be happy to set the record straight, wherever her imagination takes her.

Meanwhile, the Government plumb new depths with their immigration panic measures, which are so damaging to Scotland in particular. The Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Stanley has written:

“A friend has messaged me in a blind panic”.

If they fall in love and marry someone from overseas, must they have an income of £38,700 to settle here? He went on to say:

“Something like 75% of us earn less than that. Is it fair to limit family formation to the rich? Is it conservative…to divide families?

Of course, it is fine if someone is rich, so maybe it is.

If we, our children or our grandchildren fall in love with someone from another country—many of us do so on our travels; I am living proof of that—they will not be able to join us here unless we have guaranteed earnings nearing £39,000. Cue a further exodus of our young people from these shores to other countries with a more enlightened approach to migration and their citizens’ human rights. Even worse, those who have already gone through the process and who thought that they had won the right to live here in peace will have to come up with that figure the next time their visa is extended. Should Parliament not have debated these extreme measures first? Can the Leader of the House defend this shameful policy, or are she and other Ministers threatening to resign?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady. I would ask her to go and have a look at the SNP’s record on education. I have spoken about that in the last two business question sessions, so I shall not detain the House any longer on it. I think everyone in this Chamber is aware of the SNP’s appalling record on destroying the education system in Scotland—the only people who are not are those in charge of it.

The hon. Lady mentioned the NHS and pay settlements, and the theme of her question is really values and morality. Does she think it would be moral if a Government denied faster NHS treatment to its citizens post covid because they did not want to send them to an English hospital? I understand that the former Health Secretary made that offer to the First Minister and it was rejected. Is it moral to offer a pay deal, as she boasts, to public sector workers, including NHS workers, without a plan to pay for it? Come to think of it, is it moral to withhold funds designated for business rate relief from businesses? Would she describe it as moral if a Government denied their citizens the ability to have a civil partnership—she speaks of relationships—with their opposite-sex partner for a year, including those who were terminally ill, because they did not want the UK Government to legislate on their behalf?

While the hon. Lady is looking up the SNP’s record on education, I would ask her also to check how many concurrent police investigations there are into the SNP’s antics. Owing to her party’s antics, I am afraid her quest to take the moral high ground is stuck at a subterranean level. But given that she has, as is standard SNP operating procedure, played the man as well as the ball, I will set the record straight on my own record with regard to refugees. I spent time over two years looking after the most desperate and vulnerable people in the eastern bloc after the Romanian revolution. More recently, I have spent time on the water in the Mediterranean and northern Libya tracking migration and people-trafficking routes. When I was in Greece and Italy, I saw how the EU’s biometric scanners in its southern ports had not even been uncovered and unwrapped, and how Europe’s security was being failed. I have opened my home to refugees: I have been hosting a Ukrainian refugee since May last year, and before that I offered my home to Afghan refugees.

I can tell the hon. Lady that migration is one of the most critical issues facing our country and the world, and that the global rules on it are broken. I have made it my business to understand how we can fix them—that is our duty—and it will take global leadership to build the tools to rewrite those rules. If we do it, I think other nations will follow. I would ask her to really check what her duty is in this manner and consider supporting our legislation.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 30th November 2023

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his warm welcome for the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. I will certainly ensure that the Home Secretary is aware of his concerns with regard to that police force. He will know that the next Foreign Office questions are on 12 December, but I will certainly ensure that both the Foreign Secretary and his lead Minister in the Commons are aware of his concerns about that terrible attack.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I am sure that the hearts of all of us in the House go out to those innocents who have suffered in Gaza and Israel, and who continue to suffer.

I, too, wish the House a very happy St Andrew’s day —to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to us all. On this special day, I have first a word of thanks. The Leader of the House has described me in this Chamber and on social media as “sanctimonious”, “delusional”, “treacherous” and “slopey-shouldered”. I cannot say how much that language from a Tory is a badge of honour for me in Scotland, so I am grateful. Even more, her comments last week about Scotland’s drug policies were literally front-page news. The Daily Record described them as “an odd rant” —one of the more positive responses. One correspondent asked:

“Why does Penny hate Scotland so much—was she scared by the bagpipes as a child?”

We certainly look forward to her reply to that.

I am afraid that that answer from the Leader of the House illustrated comprehensively the attitudes and contempt on the Government side of the House for the people of Scotland. Maybe she needs to refresh her Government’s growing army of scriptwriters in Edinburgh —paid for, of course, by taxpayers’ money. No more fat- free, out-of-date Trumpian rants, please.

The Leader of the House has claimed that she takes an interest in the welfare of Scotland’s children, so obviously she will have seen the remarkable new assessment of the Scottish child payment posted on the London School of Economics website by a number of academics expert in social policy and economics. It says that the Scottish Government’s payments are

“predicted to have a monumental impact on reducing child poverty rates”,

and that they will

“transform Scotland from being one of the most unequal places to live in Europe to being one of the most equal.”

I feel that this House should be given an opportunity to debate it, as child poverty in England rockets. Given her stated interest, will she please confirm that she has read that assessment? If not, would she like me to send her a copy? Or maybe it is really all about clickbait and social media reach, and she does not care at all.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 23rd November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Things became a bit clearer for us all this week. For a time, we have been wondering what the Leader of the House meant when she delivered her infamous “stand up and fight” battle cry. She told us 12 times in 90 seconds that she wanted to have a fight with somebody, but we were not quite sure who the enemy in her head was. We know in Scotland that she likes having a fight with us; she is always telling us off for disobedience or treachery. In Tory Britain, we Scots really should know our place. But the Chancellor helpfully revealed who else her Government want to fight with.

If you are unable to work because of ill health, get ready for battle with the Tories. If you are among the 4 million families destitute in the UK, forget it—there will be no real help for you in your daily struggle to survive. As is clear from the covid inquiry, if you are a scientist or—God forbid—an actual expert, gird your loins. In England, Tories fight NHS workers. They fight teachers. They fight local councils. They fight the low-paid. If you are on pensions or benefits, sure, they threw you a few crumbs yesterday from their table, but the Office for National Statistics says that food prices are 30% higher than they were two years ago, so they will fight you at the checkout tills. There was not a word about fighting billionaires’ tax evasion, fighting dirty money being laundered through London, or fighting the corruption and fraud drenching this Government in sleaze.

When the Chancellor sat down yesterday, the independent OBR assessed that his measures would bring the largest reduction in living standards since records began. But never mind; I see the other place was debating the Pedicabs (London) Bill last night, so we can all calm down, knowing that this Government are focused on the things that really matter. And people ask us why we want to see Scotland independent and away from this bedlam of a place!

I realise that I will wait in vain for any actual answers to these questions—questions like, how is it exactly that the right hon. Lady’s Government can find fiscal headroom in their Budget when some of my constituents in Edinburgh North and Leith cannot afford to feed themselves? Is it not time her profligate Government stopped fighting everybody and held an inquiry into themselves and the many billions they have squandered over the last four years?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am not in any doubt who I am standing up and fighting for—the people of this country—and who I am standing up and fighting against, and the SNP are on the latter list. First, what the hon. Lady says is not the case. She spoke about the welfare measures that were announced yesterday. She knows that the closing claims measure does not apply in Scotland and does not apply to anyone with disabilities or a child. If she was not aware of that, I ask her to please read the documents that were put out yesterday and the Chancellor’s statement, and if she does know that that is the case, it would be helpful for her not to say otherwise.

The hon. Lady lists a number of things and makes various accusations. I would ask her to be a little more self-reflective. It is her party that has been subject to 22—and counting, I think—police investigations. The Serious Fraud Office is investigating GFG Alliance, the company to which the Scottish National party gave hundreds of millions of pounds to guarantee jobs that never materialised, and that just happened to be sponsoring its party conference at the same time.

The hon. Lady likes to lecture my party about values. Which party is it whose leader smirked while people booed the national anthem? Which party is it whose activists called BBC reporters traitors? Which party is it that bullied Conservative party members attending a conference in Scotland to the extent that it made national news? Which party is it whose behaviour was so horrific towards its own elected representatives that they said they suffered panic attacks, and some have crossed the Floor? Who is responsible for the bile-fuelled rants that are so evident in Hansard?

Once the hon. Lady has clocked that the answer to all those questions is her party, she might reflect on why that is the case and on the appalling legacy that such a warped, irresponsible displacement activity has seeded to a generation of Scottish children—a wrecked education system, a widening attainment gap, fewer teachers, maths scores declining in every PISA survey, science at a record low and plummeting literacy rates. But they will, of course, have somewhere safe and warm in which to take heroin. I am not going to take any lectures from the hon. Lady about values, responsibility or performance in office. This is why I will get up every week and stand up and fight against the slopey-shouldered separatism evidenced by the SNP.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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People in Scotland learned something this week: however much we dislike and distrust this Tory Government, it is nothing compared with how much they utterly loathe each other. Those letters, emails and WhatsApp messages show that they spend their time attacking each other, leaving no time to help people struggling with the Tory mortgage and rent bombshell or with rocketing energy bills, and no time to reduce NHS waiting lists in England, now approaching 8 million, or to cap food inflation, which is still running at over 10%. They are way too busy fighting like rats in a sack. Even their squalid, unlawful Rwanda scheme has fallen apart.

However, I bring good news to the Leader of the House to cheer her up—news from a part of the UK where a Government are getting on with the job; where not a single day has been lost in the NHS to industrial disputes; where teachers are the best paid in the UK; where the Scottish child payment is taking tens of thousands out of poverty; where the railways have been taken into public ownership; where there are free school meals for all pupils, P1 to P5; where there are more GPs per head than anywhere in the UK; where those aged 60 and over get free bus travel, along with our under-22-year-olds; and where we offer free university tuition, free prescriptions, free eye tests, and free personal care to our older folk. That is in Scotland under the SNP-led Scottish Government, as the Leader of the House knows, but her Government have a cunning plan to make everything come good: a new Minister for common sense—a wokefinder general, to search out woke thinking and eliminate it. The job is in the safe hands of someone who is allowed to attend Cabinet, but is prohibited from speaking in meetings—and anyone who knows the new Minister knows that a period of silence may be her first and overwhelming challenge. For some light relief in this very bleak week for her Government, could the Leader of the House help many of her baffled colleagues and try to give us her definition of “woke”?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, would take a dim view of it if I refused to answer the hon. Lady’s question—if I just stood here in silence because I did not fancy doing it, or objected strongly to the content and tone of the question. Had I done that, you might ask why I showed up this morning if I was not prepared to do my duty in this House and to show respect to the House. It would be a bit like attending at the Cenotaph and not singing the national anthem.

The hon. Lady displays a distinct lack of self-awareness. I grow tired of reading out to her each week statistics on the performance of her own Government, but since she invites me to again, let me give her two statistics that address the issues she raises. In England, the NHS 18-month waiting lists are down by 94% since September 2021; and a doctor or a headteacher in Scotland pays approximately £2,000 more in tax. I will continue to do my duty to this House, and to remind the SNP of their appalling record in government, which is obvious to everyone except them.

Finally, on all sorts of issues that many would perhaps describe as “woke” this Government have a proud record, because we recognise that compassion and care for everyone in our society is very important. That is why we did the largest ever LGBT action plan, from which we wanted practical measures that would make a difference to people’s lives. Conservatism, to me, has always been about the practical impact that we have on people’s lives, and stepping up and taking responsibility, not just for ourselves but for other people. Given her background and life experiences, I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey), who will now sit at the Cabinet Table, will be very good in that role.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 9th November 2023

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Before her rapid rise to her current role as the Leader of the House, the right hon. Lady briefly served as Minister for Women and Equalities. There is—believe it or not—still such a role in this Tory Government. I raise that because recently there have been some absolutely shocking insights into the Government’s attitudes to women and equalities that give us an opportunity to assess her Government’s record, and—spoiler alert for her—it is grotesque.

First, we had the stomach-churning misogyny in language and behaviour described by witnesses at the covid inquiry. I imagine that even the Leader of the House would find it hard to defend the routine and disgraceful attacks on women in a Government she served. It told us so much. We then had the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Oliver De Schutter, telling the right hon. Lady’s Government that their record on poverty was “simply not acceptable” and was violating international laws. That surprises no one who sees the effects of her Government’s cruel policies day in and day out. Then a former Tory chair joined the fray by saying that there was “rot at the heart” of the party she was once so proud to be a member of—a rot at the heart of Government.

What we are talking about is the Tory Government’s values, and those values are not Scotland’s values. Their values suggest that the way to help the homeless is to ban charities from supplying tents to rough sleepers—it is a “lifestyle choice” to be homeless, is it not? Those comments were so misjudged that even the Prime Minister was embarrassed. They have the values that say, “We don’t care if we break international laws on poverty and the human rights of the poorest”, and that women can be dismissed in the foulest way imaginable as a part of normal behaviour. Simon Case, the country’s most senior civil servant, said that he had

“never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country”.

He should know.

Can we have a debate on the Tory Government’s values and what 13 years under this “brutal and useless” Government have done to progress women and equalities and the interests of the most vulnerable among us in this far from United Kingdom?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. The powerful words this week of Susie Flintham of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice should give us all pause for thought. That is why the Government have placed professionalism and care of each other at the heart of what we do. We are the first Government to have set up a ministerial human resources function in Whitehall—it is shameful that previously that did not exist. That is also why we are focused on more training and support for MPs, Ministers and officials, and it is why, in my evidence to the Standards Committee, I said that the only way we will make the nation proud of our conduct here is to recognise the responsibility and duty of care we have to each other across the hundreds of organisations that make up the political landscape—Parliament, political parties and Whitehall. The Government and I as Leader of the House take these matters incredibly seriously.

The hon. Lady talked about values and language. I hope that she will have a word with some of her party’s activists, who have intimidated those who stand against her or stand up for their own principles. I point out that, despite by-election losses, the Government did arrive back here with a new MP who sits on our Benches. A little self-reflection about some of the reasons why that MP made that transition would be appreciated.

The hon. Lady wants to talk about values. On women and equalities issues, it is the SNP that has torn the social fabric of the UK with its plans on gender recognition reforms. It is the SNP and the Labour party, which backed the SNP on that, that have backed the anti-free speech Bill that the Scottish Government have been so keen to push. The parties are in coalition together at a local level. Labour would give the SNP powers on foreign affairs and has indulged the First Minister of Wales’s separatist agenda.

The hon. Lady often comes here to say that the Government do not respect devolution. We do respect devolution; it is part of our values. Since the turn of the century, the UK Government have legislated for Scotland more than 200 times with the Scottish Government’s consent. It is the SNP that does not listen to local voices. The party that does not respect local people and local decision making is the SNP, which overrules 50% of councils on planning appeals, did not consult local authorities regarding its council tax policies, and does not pass on funding from the UK Government that is designed for Scotland’s local authorities. I think that our values are fine. The hon. Lady should look to her own party if she wants some improvement.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 19th October 2023

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I associate myself with all the remarks about Sir David.

The Leader of the House has previously commented on how much she enjoys our exchanges at business questions, as do I. It is the weekly forum where I challenge her on our deep and profound differences in policies and priorities, and there will be plenty of opportunities in the next few weeks and months to tackle her on her Government’s shortcomings. However, today, like so many people, my thoughts are with the civilian populations in Gaza and Israel. People across all nations of the UK share this House’s revulsion and fear of what we see unfolding—revulsion at the barbarism of Hamas and fear of what the future holds for innocent children, women and men in both Gaza and Israel. A huge number of MPs have constituents who are worried sick about friends or relatives who are caught up in these events, and of course communities across the UK will be anxious about what we are witnessing and its potential impact. As the House will know, Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and his wife and family are directly affected in the most terrible way, and my thoughts are also with them today.

The UK Government have several roles to fulfil in this crisis, and there is an urgent need for action, as we all know. In the first instance, they must direct their efforts to the enormous humanitarian aid needs in southern Gaza—medical supplies, water, food, basic power. Twenty trucks is a start, but there are apparently 100 standing by and they must get through. However, they need to travel safely through, so calling for an immediate ceasefire to facilitate the provision of aid in Gaza and to give evacuees a safe passage out is vital, as is the release of all the hostages—one’s heart breaks to think of them—and the use of every possible diplomatic effort to stop an escalation into a wider regional conflict. The Government should join First Minister Humza Yousaf in calling for a worldwide refugee scheme similar to that established for Syrian, Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. In the longer term, they should use all their powers to keep the two-state solution alive and keep a dialogue for peace open. They must rise to many challenges, and we wish the Prime Minister well in his endeavours today. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he will deliver a statement about the outcome on his return?

Of course, we will return to the business of scrutinising the Government’s actions in the usual way when politics returns to some sort of normality, hopefully very soon.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for dwelling on that particular matter, because I think that is the prime concern for all Members of the House this weekend. I join her, as I am sure all colleagues will want to, in her sentiments about the plight of the First Minister’s family and in wishing that that has a good outcome.

The hon. Lady will know that additional humanitarian support is being provided by the Government to the region, which is built on many years of providing support. We are one of the major contributors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and we have done a huge amount of work in Lebanon to support the refugee programmes there. So we bring not just the financial offer, but decades of expertise in working in the region and with our networks. Of course we want hostilities to end, but I would just say to the hon. Lady that we are dealing with a terrorist organisation, and negotiating ceasefires with terrorist organisations is a very difficult thing to do.

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the plight of hostages, and one way we can all help is by keeping a focus on those individuals and their families in the coming days—I hope not weeks—and on their return. This is another area where the UK has a lot of expertise to offer. Israel will not have had a lot of expertise in hostage negotiation. Not just the Government but our non-governmental organisations have huge experience of working with organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and interlocutors in trying to get hostages extracted. I know that all we can do to help will be on offer. She is also right to point to the fact that the barbaric terrorist attack that kicked off this chain of events is in part designed to wreck any chance of peace, in particular the progress that was being made between Israel, Saudi Arabia and others in normalising relations. I thank her for the opportunity to send a message from all of us in this House that this is our focus and concern.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 14th September 2023

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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It is always revealing to hear the Leader of the House express her increasingly outlandish views of Scotland every Thursday morning. I expect today will be no different. Her efforts last week had the feel of a fever dream, as she treated us to her thoughts on Mary Queen of Scots, the highland clearances and the hundred years war, all in some sort of answer to my comments about Scotland’s remarkable progress on child poverty. Goodness knows what we will get this week, although once again I gently remind her that business questions is for Members of this House to ask about her Government and their policies. We all understand the difficulties of defending this tired, hollowed-out bunch on their last legs, but that is her job—for the moment, anyway.

I wonder, given her claim to have a keen interest in events north of the border, if she has had a chance to look at the report by the think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research on the state of the Union. It suggests that the kind of belligerent, muscular Unionism we see on display from her Tory Benches is now utterly counterproductive, and not just on Thursday mornings but day in, day out. The report highlights the brittle and contemptuous approach of Westminster to Scotland and its people. Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University’s governance centre, and co-author of the report, said:

“attempts…to champion a single version of Britishness, to buttress what some have termed ‘the precious Union’, are not only doomed to failure but are likely to be self-defeating.”

Doomed to failure—a phrase that could be applied to so many of this Government’s endeavours: Brexit, High Speed 2 and numerous defence projects such as the Ajax tanks debacle. I could go on. They never listen. They never learn. It might also help the Leader of the House to read an article by respected BBC financial journalist Paul Lewis of the “Money Box” programme, who recently wrote:

“I once coined the acronym Tabis – Things Are Better in Scotland – as a shorthand for the forward-looking social policies of that country. And it gets truer all the time.”

Once again, is it not time for a debate, even in the dog days of this Government, to look at Scotland and learn how, as Paul Lewis said, to do things better?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have always advertised the differences across the nations of the United Kingdom and regional differences in England as one of the strengths of the Union, as well as the things that we have in common. The hon. Lady accuses me of talking Scotland down and not celebrating it. Au contraire, if she looks back at my speeches from the Dispatch Box, she will know that is not the case. I am not talking Scotland down but about the SNP running Scotland down.

I am happy to compare our record of stewardship of public services against that of the SNP. Not a week goes by without the SNP messing up some particular sector or service. This week, highlights include the SNP pressing ahead with short-term lets licensing, which on 1 October will see thousands of businesses potentially close in Scotland and put some people in jeopardy of losing their homes, clobbering Scotland’s tourist sector, too. It has also emerged this week that complaints about SNP-administered benefits have increased by 350%, and while the economy recovers and people still have to tighten their belts, the SNP Government think it is a brilliant idea to introduce a congestion charge.

Scotland deserves better than socialist separatist parties. Yet again, the hon. Lady has demonstrated that the SNP is yesterday’s people talking about yesterday’s grievances. It is yesterday’s party.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 7th September 2023

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend has raised issues related to that particular company many times in business questions, and the whole House can sense his frustration and anger with what is happening. I suggest that he may wish to raise the matter with the relevant Secretary of State on 19 October. He is an experienced parliamentarian and will know how he can achieve a debate.

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

I, too, welcome the shadow Leader of the House to her post and I pay real tribute to her predecessor.

It is a bit of a surprise to us all that the Leader of the House herself is still in post, hanging on against all the odds, especially given the way her Government are unravelling day by catastrophic day. During summer recess we all saw her on her latest leadership tour in Scotland. Madam Deputy Speaker, she cannot stay away from the place. Two visits in one year—it must be a record for a Tory Minister! Speaking at a fringe event, she characterised Scotland as a “fierce and powerful nation” being held back by the “bile and hatred” of the SNP. In her reflections on her visit, the Leader of the House mounted a defence of the Union based on our “poems”, “our rivalry”, and our “blood and our brotherhood”. Madam Deputy Speaker, we have no interest in being “fierce”, whatever that means; we just want the power to govern ourselves like any modern democratic country and build a fairer, greener and more prosperous nation.

I think I know why the Leader of the House is so keen to head north of the border. It is because when she is there she sees a very different country. I could not put it better than the respected Oxford professor Danny Dorling, who said last month:

“Scotland is showing us the route to a fairer society and is helping to prevent Britain from becoming a failed state.”

Professor Dorling added:

“Scotland already has a lower proportion of children living in poverty than the most affluent region of England, which is the south east. Further progress”—

on inequality—

“has been achieved through the Scottish Child Payment…raised to £25 a week”.

And finally:

“Scotland shows us a better way forward.”

In contrast, he has described the reaction of politicians in England to addressing inequality as being to promise

“only minor remedial actions with short-term impact”.

The Leader of the House called me delusional when I pointed out to her previously Scotland’s faster economic growth, our lower unemployment and our lower rates of child poverty than the rest of the UK, and when I told her that not a single day in the Scottish NHS has been lost to industrial dispute and that we have the best paid teachers in the UK. The next time she comes back from a day trip to Scotland, can we have a debate on what she has learned from us?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, I have genuinely missed these exchanges, where the hon. Lady blames everyone except the Scottish Government, who are one of the most powerful devolved Administrations in the world. She invites me to tell the House what I learned on my very pleasant trips to Scotland over the summer. I learned that Scotland has slower economic growth than England. I was shocked to learn that Victorian diseases, such as rickets, have returned to certain cities in Scotland, and that Glasgow’s rat problem is now so bad it is precluding binmen accessing certain streets because it is too dangerous for them. I discovered that the bill to Scottish taxpayers for the smelting business debacle stands at £32 million. I discovered that £33 million, which was ringfenced for Scottish farmers, has gone AWOL. I also learned that the Scottish auditors have only been able to give a qualified sign-off to the SNP’s accounts.

I toured other parts of the UK as well. In Manchester—this may interest the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell)—I discovered that Greater Manchester police had been forced to issue a crime reference number following a complaint about the SNP giving constituency seats in return for cash. I also learned that there is a £1 billion black hole in the Scottish programme for government, which was announced this week. I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) for inviting me to put that on the record.

The hon. Lady seeks to blame everyone else for this situation: me, the UK Government, and anyone else who is around except the Scottish Government. This summer, a former colleague of hers even tried to blame agents of a foreign power for infiltrating the SNP and making all these terrible decisions. The SNP is never short of a grievance, but it is now running out of excuses. I look forward to hearing next week what other excuses there may be. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots? The highland clearances? The hundred years war?

The grotesque chaos and appalling public services from which the hon. Lady’s constituents and the rest of the Scottish people are suffering are entirely down to the SNP. They are now a sad, spent force, and are no longer the UK’s separatist party: that dubious honour now goes to the Labour party in Wales.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 20th July 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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This may be the last time I face the Leader of the House at business questions; if the rumours are true, she is about to be moved again in yet another “deckchairs on the Tory Titanic” reshuffle. It is a shame; she was just getting the hang of business questions, by which I mean that, like other Tory Ministers at the Dispatch Box, she consistently avoids answering the question. If anyone doubts that, last week, when I asked her about the Prime Minister’s inflation and debt pledges, I got a lecture in response about nuclear weapons and afternoon coffee breaks, and then she described me as “delusional”.

There is no hope that the Government will change course; 13 years of austerity and incompetence are baked in. We are talking about a Government who forced Brexit on Scotland, and who refuse to allow the Scots even the right to choose their own future; a Budget that tanked the economy and pushed the pensions sector to the brink of collapse; an inhuman and degrading immigration regime; former Prime Ministers who cannot even remember their phone passwords for a covid inquiry; and a current PM who appears to think that arguing with banks on behalf of an individual is the most important thing to focus on in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and just a day before three by-elections. Doctors, nurses and teachers are all striking in England. According to the Transport Secretary, it is now expected that political parties will pay out for the actions of their donors and associates—a surprising tack to take, as his party can now surely expect a veritable torrent of invoices to wing their way to Conservative HQ in the near future.

The people of Scotland know, of course, that there is a better way than what we have to put up with here. Scotland has hope of a better way than endless Westminster failures and arrogance; it has hope of a future that holds real prospects of a better life for our families and communities. Probably for the last time, in the vain hope of an answer, I ask a question of the Leader of the House: with food inflation still running at an estimated 17.3%, can we have a debate on how the Government got us in such a hopeless mess?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me start by saying how much I enjoy our exchange every week, and how disappointed I should be if it were, indeed, to be our last. However, I feel that it is my duty to point out to the hon. Lady the error of what she asserts. She talks about denying the people of Scotland a choice in respect of their future. We are the Government who gave the Scottish people, as well as other residents of the United Kingdom, a vote on their future, in respect of both Scottish independence and Brexit. The difference between the hon. Lady’s party and mine is that we honour the results of referendums.

I know that the hon. Lady and her party have been campaigning hard on the two- child policy this week, so let me illustrate the powers and the opportunities that sit in her party’s hands. It may interest her to know that the projected black hole in the SNP’s budget, identified by the Scottish Fiscal Commission as a huge £1.9 billion in the next four years, is enough money not only to reverse that policy in Scotland, but to reverse it for the whole of the UK. As a Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, I was amazed at the lengths to which the SNP would go not to take control over many aspects of welfare policy that we wished to devolve to it, choosing instead to criticise the UK Government for the decisions that they were making. The hon. Lady’s party is in power in Scotland. It pains me that it is in power, but it is and has been for many years, so it is time that its Members took some responsibility.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 13th July 2023

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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It is good to be back after a short absence on parliamentary business. First, I request a debate on conventions of this House. Normally, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) would have responded to the Prime Minister’s statement on NATO, but as we were not given any advance notice of that important statement, unlike His Majesty’s loyal Opposition, he was unable to be in his place to respond. There is a conventional expectation to be notified of such statements beforehand, as we should be made aware to ensure that we can scrutinise the Government properly. Will the Leader of the House take that up with her Government?

While I was away, I notice the Leader of the House had a day trip to Scotland. I hope she received the kind of warm welcome we always give to people visiting from afar. On her very brief visit, she will have been in a nation where not a single day has been lost in the health service to strikes; where the Government and teachers got together and negotiated a deal; where there is no profit motive when people turn the tap on for water in their homes; where water quality is among the best in Europe; where social policies, such as the Scottish child payment, have been universally welcomed; where unemployment is lower than the UK as a whole and economic growth faster; and where we continue to attract levels of foreign direct investment second only to London.

On her return to this place, she, like me, was no doubt depressed to be back under a regime that has given Scots the catastrophe of Brexit against our will, a debt burden greater than our entire GDP, crippling increases in mortgages, rents and food prices, and the expectation of the highest tax burden in Britain since the second world war by 2027-28. What a great thing it is to be governed by people so incompetent they cannot spend £1.9 billion on desperately needed housing in England—by the way, I hope the devolved nations can keep their Barnettised share of that, as we will certainly use it—and apparently cannot tell the difference between decriminalisation and legalisation, as Scotland’s Government try to take action to address drug deaths. The current approach of criminalising users, advocated by her Government, is clearly not working.

Finally, could we have time for a debate on the Government’s progress on their five doomed pledges? As always, I ask the Leader of the House to answer the questions first, before she reads out her next leadership bid script.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will be laser-focused on what the hon. Lady raises. First, let me point out that she is incorrect. There has been some incorrect reporting with regards to £1.9 billion being handed back to the Treasury by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The bulk of that spend still sits with that Department. The hon. Lady will know that we have delivered 2.3 million additional homes since 2010, the lion’s share of which are affordable homes. Our current build rate is up 108%, compared to when we first took power. It is important to point that out, and I thank her for allowing me to correct that incorrect line that has been running.

I think the hon. Lady is slightly delusional regarding the SNP’s record. She talks about trying to tackle drug deaths. The SNP has the worst record of managing this problem, the worst record of drug deaths in Europe and does not fare well with regard to water pollution. That may have been a reason the SNP put out a complaint about the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; it wanted her to go to Holyrood to be drilled by SNP colleagues there. But it is this House that will hold the Secretary of State to account. So her colleagues will have to enjoy their biscuits without “Coffey” in Holyrood, which makes for a nice change from their Westminster colleagues, who I understand have been having a lot of meetings with their Chief Whip—with coffee, but without biscuits.

On the hon. Lady’s final point on today’s statement, I shall look into that, because it is a courtesy and people should expect to be able to see statements in advance. She did a very good job of filling in for her colleague, who probably wanted to be here and I certainly would have liked to hear what questions they would have asked. After all, the SNP, which wishes to have an independent Scotland in NATO, does not realise that that is incompatible with its position on nuclear weapons, as stated by the former First Minister, and with the fudge on this issue that the current First Minister has proposed and that is in the SNP’s White Paper on the matter.

I take this opportunity—again, I thank the hon. Lady for affording me it—to remind all hon. Members that, if we pay lip service to the deterrent and that is all we do, if we waiver in our total commitment to it and if we are no longer credible, it ceases to become a deterrent and, when it ceases to become a deterrent, we become a target.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 15th June 2023

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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There is no shortage of things we can talk about this week. The UK still has the highest core inflation in the G7, with the continuing cost of living crisis and warnings of further rate rise misery for mortgage owners. There were some—putting it mildly—questionable choices on a former PM’s honours list, a scathing report out yesterday from the Scottish Government demonstrating exactly how this UK Government are attempting to impose direct rule on Scotland by stealth and, indeed, an utterly damning Privileges Committee report, just released, with its conclusions on that former PM’s behaviour, although we can of course expect that one to be very thoroughly debated on Monday. Our constituents, who suffered so much throughout the pandemic, deserve nothing less.

However, I want to focus on this occasion on something I am sure the Leader of the House will have been as horrified to hear about as I was. It is the report on Sky News that serving personnel at RAF bases in England are having to use food banks to feed their families. We all know that the Leader of the House has a real interest in defence matters—until her demotion by the previous Prime Minister, she was a Defence Minister herself—and next week is of course Armed Forces Week, with many events planned for this place, so it can only be a matter of profound shame for her that service personnel are having to go days without food to make sure their own children are fed. Living hand to mouth is frankly unimaginable at a time of war in Europe. How are her Government going to back those “grafters”, as she would put it? The Tories claim to be the party of defence, but with the continuing scandal of substandard personnel accommodation, endless Tory defence cuts and the billions wasted on defence procurement fiascos—and now personnel being forced to use food banks—is it not more than time for a serious debate on the numerous Tory defence failures? Does she agree, and would she support that?

Once again, I ask the Leader of the House, with respect, not to reach for the inaccurate, out-of-date video script, written by her own army of special advisers, attacking the elected Government of Scotland. Business questions are about the conduct of her Government, and I would argue that this question is too serious for this now obvious avoidance technique. Would she be so helpful as to answer those questions?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me first say that I always answer the hon. Lady’s questions. Indeed, I am going to lavish praise on the Scottish Government this week, because their First Minister has achieved a landmark achievement —credit where credit is due—in that he has the honour of being the first SNP First Minister in its entire history not to have been arrested, which is quite an achievement.

I shall not go over what I previously said to the shadow Leader of the House on the economy and on the Privileges Committee, but let me be specific about the points the hon. Lady raises. She is right that as Defence Secretary, I—in my 85 days in office—gave all of our armed forces a pay rise, and made sure that no one who ever serves in our armed forces will earn less than the national living wage. I think that is an important principle. The hon. Lady will know that we care deeply about the welfare of our armed forces, and indeed about their financial resilience. That is why this Government are compensating armed forces personnel in Scotland for the additional tax that they have to pay under the Scottish Government. We think that is an important point.

The hon. Lady, again—this is a regular theme—criticises the UK Government for our obligations under the law, our overreach on devolution, as she sees it, and our democratic obligations. I gently point out that she might have more credibility on such matters if the Scottish Government had not been found repeatedly to have been in breach of the Scotland Act 1998. Ministers have been touring the world, at Scottish taxpayers’ expense, undermining our Union, undermining our armed forces and the nuclear deterrent, and undermining referendums and democracy. In doing so, they are undermining the Scottish Government’s credibility, and the arguments they are trying to mount against us. I ask the hon. Lady to reflect on that.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 8th June 2023

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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It was announced in the Scottish Parliament yesterday that Scotland’s deposit return scheme has had to be delayed until October 2025. That is the latest estimate of how long it will take England to finally catch up with the devolved Governments and introduce its own scheme. Some would call this dithering and delaying, and I know that that is what a great many environmental organisations think.

Keep Britain Tidy estimates that every day of delay leaves an extra 140,000 cans and bottles littering Scotland. This delay, forced on Scotland by the UK Government’s refusal to grant an exemption under the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, means that tens of millions of those items will be littering Scotland’s lands and seas for many months to come. After several years of discussion with Scottish businesses and, indeed, nearly two years of discussion with the UK Government and officials under the common framework set-up, and with no justification offered for the refusal to agree to the exemption, the Secretary of State for Scotland swooped in at the last minute, like some sort of toff Tarzan, to squash the scheme—many examples of which can be seen across the world—and demanded that glass be removed from it, thus forcing Scotland to wait for England’s scheme to become operational. Given that no regulations outlining how England’s scheme will work have yet been laid, the estimated delivery date of 1 October 2025 in England looks optimistic, to put it kindly.

Once upon a time, we supposedly had the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. Now we are not permitted to run a packaging recycling scheme. Will the Leader of the House perhaps permit a debate on devolution and its future, given that her Government apparently intend to continue to intervene and claw back to the centre powers that the people of Scotland wanted to be devolved to their Parliament? Can devolution now work only if the devolved and Westminster Governments are in complete agreement? Is that really what the people of Scotland voted for in 1997 in their devolution referendum? If the UK Government are prepared to intervene on a packaging recycling scheme, what confidence can we have that any of our Parliament’s policies will not be struck down in a similar way?

I have further questions. Why were so many MSPs and MPs in the right hon. Lady’s party enthusiastic about including glass in deposit return schemes previously —commitments to that were even included in the manifesto on which she stood—and what exactly has changed their minds? Acting on the advice of which bodies or individuals did the Secretary of State intervene, and with which environmental organisations did he discuss this before he intervened? Why has the inclusion of glass apparently been permitted for the scheme in Wales? I would be very grateful for some answers.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I shall be brief. The Secretary of State for Scotland is having these discussions with the Scottish Government first because he is standing up for the interests of Scottish business, which the SNP is not, and secondly because the scheme devised in Scotland will actually reduce recycling rates. As the hon. Lady will know, the delay in the scheme has been caused by the Scottish Government’s not engaging with the UK-wide scheme that would need to be devised because of the UK internal market. She need only go and listen to businesses in her constituency to understand their concerns about the Scottish scheme, and to hear their calls for compensation from the Scottish Government because this issue has been handled so poorly, and because of the investments they have had to make only to have the rug pulled from under their feet.

I also noted this week that the Auditor General for Scotland has revealed that the auditors are unable to account for billions of pounds’ worth of covid-19 business support grants that were handed to the Scottish Government, because of gaps in data. The SNP has made it impossible for the auditors to understand fully how £4.4 billion in grants and business reliefs were distributed between March 2020 and October 2021. I say thank heavens for the Secretary of State for Scotland, because he is standing up for the interests of the businesses and residents of Scotland.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 25th May 2023

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I am sorry for the losses expressed by the Leader of the House, and we send our deepest condolences to all those affected, particularly the family and friends of Eilidh MacLeod.

I am not sure where to go with my business questions today. I could ask the Leader of the House about the £74 billion wasted in last year’s reckless September Budget and the resulting pain for householders, the questions hanging over the UK Government’s flagship freeport project and why the National Audit Office has not been asked to investigate it, the 4 million children living in poverty in the UK today because of Tory austerity, or the catastrophe of Brexit, which, of course, Scotland did not vote for. The truth is that it will not matter as the Leader of the House will once again ignore my question and instead read a pre-prepared script for the latest of her routine videos attacking Scotland’s elected Government, rather than answering for the actions of her own. So, I am afraid that it is in the spirit of hope rather than of conviction that I ask her this: can we have a debate in Government time in this Chamber on the infected blood scandal, so that the terrible accounts that those of us on the all-party group have heard from victims and their families might be told again and, hopefully, finally shame this Government into taking action now before it is too late for many of them. It is too late for Randolph Peter Gordon-Smith, the late father of my constituents, Justine and Rachel, but it is not too late for them to be treated equitably as the executors of his estate, and to be given proper compensation for all the traumas that they suffered as carers during the dreadful and distressing decline of their father until death finally overcame him.

In the light of the second interim report, Justine cannot understand—and neither can I—why registration of the estates of the unrecognised infected deceased cannot be completed through existing support schemes now, using the same mechanism as the first interim payment, without further complicating and prolonging matters through the establishment of an arm’s length body, as the report proposes. Do not these families deserve justice now where it can be delivered? I would be most grateful to the Leader of the House if she addressed that question before reading out the video script written for her.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks about Karen and the other remarks she made.

I admire the hon. Lady’s consistency in her lack of situational awareness. She mentioned management of budgets, and I remind the House that the SNP Government have mismanaged their budget; despite cutting £1.2 billion of spending on public services, they had a £100 million overspend. I remind her to compare our record on caring for children, where we have 400,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than when we took office in 2010.

As I mentioned in my remarks to the shadow Leader of the House, we have also had good news of improving life opportunities for children in England, with the good news that English schools have dramatically improved our reading performance for nine and 10-year-olds. We are fourth best in the world, having inherited a situation where, in 2012, only 58% of six-year-olds were able to read fluently.

In contrast, in Scotland, both on health and education the SNP is letting the children of Scotland down. We have the worst-ever gap between the richest and poorest pupils, thanks to botched reform; literacy rates were falling before the pandemic and they have dropped dramatically further still. The only thing the SNP has managed to increase in education is the tax burden on teachers.

The hon. Lady raises the very serious matter of the infected blood inquiry. I have had the privilege of meeting many of those who were infected and affected by that appalling scandal, and I went to hear some of the evidence that they gave at the inquiry. It may fall to us in this place, on our shift, to put that right, but we must put it right. There is not just the original injustice that was done to those people, many of whom were children at the time, but the further layers of injustice that have happened with regard to their financial resilience, as many of them lost their homes and were not able to work, facing the appalling stigma and hardship that came with that. We have to put that right. That is why this Government set up the compensation scheme review to run concurrently with that inquiry, because we very much wanted, when that inquiry reported, to be able to make amends for that scandal. It would be an excellent topic for debate and I know that many Members in this House would want to attend if a debate was secured.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 18th May 2023

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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This week, Britain has been treated to not one, but two, Conservative conferences: the far-right Conservative Democratic Organisation and the extreme far-right National Conservatism conferences. I was rather surprised that the Leader of the House was not there after her recent starring role; nevertheless, the Home Secretary, the Levelling Up Secretary, and lots of up-and-coming Tory Back Benchers all made eye-catching contributions, along with some other rather extraordinary speeches. The holocaust was dismissed as Nazis mucking things up, and we were told that only married straight couples could safely bring up children, that pagans and narcissists are harming western civilisation, and that woke teachers are ruining children’s education—it should make for an interesting Tory manifesto. Many of my constituents are extremely concerned by these latest developments. Can we have a debate to examine the extremist language and attitudes that we have witnessed at those conferences, and can the Leader of the House tell us whether they further signal her Government’s alarming slide into the grip of the far right, or will she reject these ideas out of hand like all decent people?

At Prime Minister’s questions last week, the Prime Minister said that the Scottish Government should ditch plans to introduce highly protected marine areas, apparently unaware that the Scottish Government are only at the very start of a consultation process, with many hundreds of responses to go through yet, and that our First Minister and Ministers have said that no community will have an HPMA forced upon it. I do not know why some of the Prime Minister’s Tory MSPs could not have told him that, although judging from recent behaviour in the Scottish Parliament, perhaps some struggle to use the internet.

However, rather embarrassingly, I see that the PM himself, when touting for Tory membership votes last year, signed a pledge from the Conservative Friends of the Ocean group supporting the creation of HPMAs, and his Government recently announced that three HPMAs will be created in England. What is going on here? I know that the Conservatives are desperate to win back the Scottish coastal communities after their Brexit catastrophe, but those communities will see through this hypocrisy, and my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw that the lead patron of that same Conservative Friends of the Ocean group was the Leader of the House herself. Perhaps a debate sorting out exactly where the UK Government are on this important issue would be helpful, and can the Leader of the House clarify how she is dealing with the PM’s flip-flopping on HPMAs? Will she be resigning from Government to honour her role as patron, or resigning as patron to uphold Government policy?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, the hon. Lady asks me about the National Conservatism conference. That is not a conference that has been organised by Government or the Conservative party, and is therefore not within my remit or responsibilities to respond to. I am taking this as a positive, as she is running out of complaints to raise about my Government.

She raises the matter of HPMAs. I am very proud of my Government’s record, both on improving water quality and boosting the economic resilience of coastal communities and the many things that we have done around the world to protect our valuable oceans, including the Blue Charter and others. I am proud to be patron of that Conservative group that looks after our oceans and the industries they support.

I gently say to the hon. Lady that I hope we all share those aims in this place, but how we go about doing things is also rather important. The complaints that not just Conservative MPs and MSPs have about how the Scottish Government have been going about this, and the concerns that have been raised by many coastal communities, are because the Scottish Government do not consult and do not listen to those communities. It is the same story with their disastrous bottle deposit return scheme, which will impact negatively on recycling rates and cause massive problems for businesses.

I was surprised this week that the hon. Lady decided to have an Opposition day debate on the cost of living, given that the SNP is hiking taxes, spending like there is no tomorrow and failing to deliver on decent public services. We have heard this week that it will now cost more to finish those ferries that are so massively overdue than to do a complete new build. We know that Scottish Ministers appreciate the difficulty for and impact on their constituents and the travelling public, because in order for them to visit the island of Rùm, they had to hire their own boat; they were not able to use the ferry services.

I wonder whether the hon. Lady and her colleagues have read any of Audit Scotland’s reports or acted on any of its recommendations. They have no concept of the catalogue we now have of arrests and raids and multiple police investigations into the mismanagement of their party finances, and of how negatively that has reflected on Scottish politics. We also have the poor stewardship of public funds and an increasing question about the ongoing saga of the Scottish National Investment Bank. We are wondering not just how much longer those CalMac ferries will be in the dock, but how many SNP figures will be as well.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 11th May 2023

(9 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I do understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. The Secretary of State wants to take a pragmatic approach, but I know that he will also have concerns about sovereignty and other such issues. I will certainly speak to business managers and the Secretary of State to ensure that there can be proper scrutiny of these matters, and I assure my hon. Friend that although there are differences on how we should approach these matters, the Secretary of State shares his aim that we should do this well and not miss the opportunities, having left the EU, to modernise our statute book and make sensible reforms. But I undertake to do as he has asked.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I add my congratulations to the Leader of the House on her role at the coronation? There was tremendous upper body strength on show there, and with the added strain of having to remain silent virtually all afternoon—so well done, her. Maybe it was a “speak softly and carry a big sword” moment, because it appears that carrying a lethal weapon and wearing an imperial-style outfit now makes her favourite to be the next Tory leader—was it the sword of Damocles she was clutching? I am reminded of that old “Monty Python” skit, though—something about strange women distributing swords being no basis for a system of government.

Did the Leader of the House’s somewhat authoritarian look on Saturday reflect the new and unnerving “Braverman law”, which apparently allows people to be arrested for even thinking about protesting? May we therefore have a debate on the thought police, and on whether guidance for that hastily delivered Act might be tightened up after those recent unfortunate arrests?

Speaking of horrible Bills, I see that Labour, despite the urging of the Archbishop of Canterbury, continues to cleave to this Government’s nasty “hostile environment” policies. Is it any wonder that even after 13 years of perhaps the most incompetent and chaotic series of Tory Governments there has ever been, Labour seemingly still cannot win an outright majority? Yet Labour claims it will not entertain the idea of co-operation agreements with the SNP, despite the fact that we will speak to anyone progressive in order to lock the Tories out of No. 10.

If we had a fair electoral system, parties would often have to work in partnership with each other, as they do in many other grown-up democracies across the world. So may we have a debate on proportional representation and fair voting, so that we can ask why the Tory and Labour parties support the antiquated first-past-the-post system, which prolongs the establishment duopoly we see year after dreary year in this place? Oops, I believe I have answered my own question there.

That is probably just as well, because although we all enjoyed—really—the Leader of the House’s starring role at the weekend, I would once again gently remind her that her day job is to answer for the conduct of her own Government, not simply give her views on the Governments of other countries for use on social media. If she could stick to the day job in this, I would be very grateful.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her compliments, and it is good to see her back in her place. I am very aware that my most successful role in my career to date has been when I have been silent. That has not been lost on me.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of protests. I say to all Members of this House that we make the laws in this place, and we have brought in new measures because we felt that the public need protection from particularly disruptive and dangerous protests, as we have seen in recent events and developments. But the police are operationally independent; they need to use their judgment, and sometimes they will make mistakes, and when they do, as we have seen, they apologise for them. I think all of that is incredibly reassuring, and I would like to place on record my thanks to the police for the difficult jobs they have done in recent weeks, particularly those who were standing for a considerably longer period than 51 minutes—I met a police officer involved in the coronation who was on their feet throughout a 13-hour shift. They do a tremendous job and we owe them a huge debt of thanks.

It is no surprise at all that the hon. Lady should take exception to the result of another referendum we had, on voting systems. But I am genuinely delighted that the SNP has found some auditors. With nearly 2,000 accountancy and auditing firms in Scotland, I was interested to know who it would pick to do the job. Perhaps it would be someone from her constituency, given that Edinburgh is Europe’s second-largest financial centre, second only to the City of London. Yet the SNP had to go to Manchester to find someone willing to take on the task. Presumably she would view that as offshoring.

Perhaps the SNP can now turn its attention to its dire mishandling of Scottish finances and the recommendations of Audit Scotland. I remind the House that the SNP has been forced to raise income tax after a £100 million budget overspend despite this year cutting public expenditure by £1.2 billion. The Scottish people deserve better than that. I know that the hon. Lady and her colleagues did not necessarily celebrate the coronation, but they can learn a lesson from it. Nothing can be achieved with division and hate; the only way forward is service, duty and love.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 30th March 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I start by congratulating our new SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf? Very movingly, he paid tribute in his victory speech to his grandparents, who emigrated from Punjab 60 years ago. It is such a strong message that neither the colour of someone’s skin nor their faith should be a barrier to reaching the highest office.

Was it not therefore ironic and deeply sad that in the same week, this place was debating the so-called Illegal Migration Bill? We were told that people seeking refuge and asylum were “breaking into Britain”, as if they were thieves. That line no doubt played well with Conservative party focus groups, and it was regurgitated by the Government’s Minister for Immigration. No doubt as the Government rev up their culture wars, we will hear it again.

The Leader of the House describes herself as Parliament’s representative in Government, but this House was not given the opportunity for line-by-line scrutiny of this rushed Bill, as would have occurred in a Committee Room upstairs. It is feast or famine with this lot. It is either weeks of filler debates or frantically pushing through controversial Bills such as this without time for proper scrutiny or debate. Is it not part of the Leader of the House’s job to organise the business of this House? As Parliament’s representative in Government, what is her excuse for this latest boorach?

Shamefully, we still have no real detail on what measures are being put in place to safeguard children and young people, despite so many of them still being missing from existing hotel arrangements. Can we have a debate examining the protections for these minors before the Bill returns to the House?

Lastly, we expect a veritable avalanche of written statements on green issues today, most of which will be, fittingly enough, recycled announcements. It is clear that after decades of Westminster Governments squandering Scotland’s immense energy resources, both Labour and the Tories are once again greedily eyeing up our potential, this time as a clean energy superpower, and even lecturing the Scottish Government for their supposed failure on renewables while visiting a wind farm operated by that very same Government.

We are being told that the UK’s energy revolution is being made in Scotland, powering up Britain with Scotland’s clean, green energy—funny, I thought Scotland was a basket case that was too poor to survive without the UK. Plus ça change. When will there be a debate finally in this place on Scotland’s green energy revolution, so that we can see how the track record and future plans of the different parties truly measure up?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will start with the hon. Lady’s last point. I am sorry she does not welcome the announcements today on energy security. Our track record over the past decade on increasing renewables, strengthening the diversity of our energy sources and decreasing our reliance on other nations is very important, and I want to see that commitment matched by the Scottish Government. They have still not made the investments they said they would in this area, and I encourage them to do so. I cannot keep up with the changes to the SNP’s energy policy, but I think roughly it is against all forms of energy, except perhaps hot air. It is not Scotland that is the basket case; it is the SNP.

The second point the hon. Lady raises is one I personally take seriously, which is in regard to illegal migration. Like many Members from all parts of the House, I am hosting a Ukrainian refugee. Prior to that, I offered my home for Afghan refugees, and prior to getting into this place, I was an aid worker. I take these matters very seriously. That is why this Bill is needed, because unless safe nations such as the UK can have the powers they need to run effective systems—systems that do not just rely on someone’s ability to get into a country illegally in order to get a chance of help—we will not be able to continue the generous history we have in this nation of being somewhere that people can gain sanctuary. I urge her, in all seriousness, to reflect on that and to engage with the Illegal Migration Bill as it makes its passage through this House.

Finally, I want to welcome the First Minister. It is, as the hon. Lady points out, an historic moment. It will be an inspiration to many and send a strong message that, if people have the skills and the will, high office is open to everyone. I wish him and his new team well. Along with the rest of my Government, I want to work constructively with him. I am sorry to see that, on day one, we had a cancellation of the South Uist ferry service. It is going to be unavailable in April and May, due to the fragility of the service and the lack of substitute vessels. I know the First Minister wanted to build on his predecessor’s record, but I had hoped it would not be quite like that. I hope he will focus on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland and be a First Minister who fights for causes that matter, not just causes fights.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 23rd March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I associate myself, on this day in particular, with the Leader of the House’s remarks about all those affected by covid, about the family and friends of Keith Palmer and our gratitude to him, and particularly about the dreadful incident yesterday in the Leith dockyard in my constituency? Our thoughts are with all those affected.

In her response, aka “Here’s one I prepared earlier,” the Leader of the House will no doubt ponder the difficulties currently preoccupying my party and swerve those of her own—but hey, that’s politics. Last week, she was a kind of Mystic Meg in reverse: she finally attempted some answers to questions I had posed to her over the last several months. Scotland Office spads really must keep up.

Yesterday was, I suppose, a thrilling day for political anoraks. The current PM finally shared at least a summary of his tax returns, showing very tidy sums indeed. That comes just days after we heard that a majority of UK workers have seen their salaries stagnate over 10 years—a lost decade of earnings. No wonder Downing Street tried to bury the PM’s news! European Research Group rebels and former Tory leaders did not manage to force a governmental U-turn over the Windsor framework, although a number of hon. Members appeared to be missing from the Lobby, so there may be more trouble ahead for the Leader and for her Government’s Whips.

And, of course, there was the former Prime Minister’s evidence session before the Privileges Committee. I will not go into the details of the session itself or the Committee’s activities—that would not be appropriate—but I do want to raise the attacks openly challenging its integrity. Mr Speaker himself has reminded us of the importance of allowing the Committee to complete its work without interference. Frankly, the attacks from some quarters carry the nasty whiff of Trumpian populism again, like “Stop the steal” or “Lock her up.” There is no catchy three-word slogan attached to this situation yet, but perhaps it is just a matter of time.

The Leader of the House served under the former Prime Minister in his Government. As the Cabinet Minister now responsible for this Government’s business, and arguably for defending their reputation, can she tell us what she makes of such attacks on the institutions of this Parliament? These are not internal party problems; they can be seen as an attack on democracy itself. The current Prime Minister pledged that he would lead his Government with

“integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”

Does the Leader of the House agree that these issues highlight again the need for restored trust and faith in parliamentary democracy, and will she allow the debate that I have called for previously on that very trust and integrity in parliamentary matters?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her questions, and repeat my remarks about the incident in her constituency. All Members will be wishing those who were injured a speedy recovery.

Let me take the hon. Lady’s last point first. She may remember that, during last week’s business questions, I reminded Members that the whole House had asked the Privileges Committee to undertake this task, and that the Committee’s members were doing the House a service in doing so. However, to give her some more comfort, I will make two more points.

First, I refer the hon. Lady to the words of the former Prime Minister himself, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), to the Committee yesterday in answer to one of its questions. He said that he was in front of the Committee in recognition of the task that the whole House had set, and because of his respect for Parliament. Those are his words, and those who are trying to say that they are doing the former Prime Minister a favour should heed them.

Secondly, the hon. Lady referred to particular remarks that some Members had made about the Committee. Some of them have built their reputations on being servants of the House, and would never let grubby politics get in the way of true, good, sound argument and also good manners. I would gently point out to those colleagues who mentioned, for example, marsupials that they might have been too full of bounce when they made those remarks. The Committee needs to get on with its work.

The hon. Lady did not mention the poverty statistics that were published today, but she did mention poverty. Let me remind her that our cost of living package is worth £3,300 to every household, that we have uprated pensions and benefits by 10.1%, and that there has been the largest ever cash increase in the national living wage.

The hon. Lady talked about trust, and wanting trust to be restored. That is against the backdrop of her party’s having lost a great deal in the last few weeks. It has lost its leader, it has lost its chief executive, it has lost £600,000, it has lost 30,000 members, it has lost a by-election to us, it has lost collective responsibility, it has lost the will to defend its record and the rose-tinted glasses through which it has viewed its own performance, and this week it has also lost the plot. However, it has the opportunity to find something and to restore something. This could be a fresh start, and the beginning of its actually serving the people of Scotland by focusing on their needs. Whoever is the new leader of the hon. Lady’s party, and the First Minister in Scotland, we stand ready to work constructively with that leader.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 16th March 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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The Leader of the House will no doubt be disappointed that despite it containing some welcome news, for instance about prepayment meters—a tribute to the many months of campaigning on this issue by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin)—I will not be opening with fulsome praise for her Chancellor’s Budget. Why? Despite the largest fall in living standards and disposable income for decades being endured by the vast majority of people throughout the UK, instead of holding out a helping hand to those folks, the Chancellor has just rewarded the wealthiest with a hefty leg up the pensions ladder, and instead of the investment that is desperately needed for cheaper, cleaner renewables, we get billions ploughed into nuclear. So instead, I will be asking the Leader of the House for a debate on broken British dreams and sunk hopes—that is not a country and western song, Mr Speaker.

The £20 billion over 20 years that the Chancellor has announced for nuclear and carbon capture projects will not support retrofitting homes to permanently cut energy costs for households, or much cheaper onshore wind developments, tidal energy, green hydrogen, heat pumps, district heating or solar. It will not win the global race for investment into those industries against the US and the EU, among many others.

The Treasury and the Chancellor do not appear capable of thinking outside their outdated energy sources box. Instead, they are giving us the reclassification of nuclear so as to receive the same investment opportunities as renewables—nuclear, Mr Speaker! There is not one successful evolutionary power reactor project in the world, and we still have no real solution for the safe disposal of waste that remains radioactive for centuries. Nuclear plants take years to build, and always run over budget and over time. Why are the Government so thirled to nuclear, when there are cheaper, safer, proven alternatives that will bring us to net zero targets much more quickly?

I must add: why is there no more support for tidal energy, which can provide a clean and reliable baseload and has vast potential in Scotland? We already have the world’s leading wave and tidal energy test centre based in Orkney, while companies such as Nova Innovation in my constituency are pioneers in this technology.

The UK Government’s actions suggest again that they are not taking the climate crisis seriously. The Leader of the House joined forces years ago with director Richard Curtis to champion the UN sustainable development goal targets when she was International Development Secretary. However, when I have asked her about environmental issues in the past, she has avoided the questions altogether. Is she still committed to and leading on these issues within her Government or not?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I knew there would be no mention of the £320 million of extra funding for Scotland, the investment zone and the other measures to benefit households and businesses in Scotland. I welcome those things, even if the SNP does not.

This week, the hon. Member asked me about measures to alleviate the cost of living and help improve living standards. We have a £94 billion package, which was announced in the Budget. She does not like what we have done on pensions for key professions such as doctors and experienced teachers. I am very sorry that is not welcomed, as I think it will be welcomed by many in those professions and will tempt them to stay in the workplace.

On the UN sustainable development goals, this Government have not just left those with Departments; we have put them at the heart of Government. They are in the annual reports of every Department, and we report against them.

The hon. Member talks about carbon capture and tidal energy. I remind her that the Treasury actually had a carve-out for tidal energy. We recognise that these emerging technologies will find it difficult to compete with other renewables with more advanced and developed technology. We have done that because we believe tidal is part of the answer, and we want the technology to develop. On carbon capture, I am sorry that she is not keen on the £41 million we have invested in the Scottish cluster. I gently remind her that the SNP promised to invest £80 million, and I do not think it has invested anything yet, which is very unfortunate. It is exactly from the playbook of “Look at what we say, not what we do” politics.

The hon. Member wants us to listen to her concerns, and her colleagues have this week raised issues about a lack of scrutiny, but she does not want us to look at their attendance record in debates. We have heard her raise her dismay at divisive language, but she does not want us to clock the hate-fuelled bile that comes from many SNP campaigners at anyone who loves the Union or dares to challenge them on any of their policies.

The hon. Member wants to preach about offshore tax havens and offshore schemes, but she wants us to discount the use of such schemes—as we discovered this week—by the Scottish Government, as we have seen in the CalMac tax scandal. She wants us to listen to her party leadership candidates saying they can be trusted on healthcare, that they will turbocharge the economy and that they are brimming with ideas, but she does not want us to recognise that they have crushed health, stifled growth and need to set up commission after commission to find some ideas.

The hon. Member would also like us to see the SNP as a champion of democracy, but not to look at its rejection of the referendum result. Does she not recognise the extraordinary occurrence this week of membership candidates in the leadership contest having to write a letter to guarantee a free and fair election? If the candidates were called Moe, Larry and Curly, it could not get any more slapstick. Given the SNP’s previous form and contempt for democracy, I wonder if it is actually going to adhere to the result of this contest. Will the candidates try to test the result in the courts, cry foul or attempt a rerun of the process on their own and claim it is legitimate? I am afraid we have two more weeks of this, but we know the outcome already: whoever wins, Scotland will lose.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 9th March 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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A few weeks ago, the Leader of the House praised the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), claiming that he spoke for many within Britain. He, of course, has voiced support for capital punishment and has instructed the poor and vulnerable on how they could subsist on a pittance if only they tried harder.

Well, Gary Lineker clearly speaks for many, many more of us, judging from the reactions when he voiced his revulsion at the language around the Government’s latest migration Bill. I am sure that the sight of that lectern emblazoned with its slogan shook him as much as it did me, once I realised that it was not a spoof. Ah, those three-word slogans, so beloved of some political operatives. “Stop the boats,” “Take back control,” “Oven-ready deal,” “Build the wall”—truly Trumptious tag lines, finessed by shady campaigning strategists to deliver grubby psychological jolts to the public’s consciousness that will really drive their ugly, misleading messages home. For a party whose Members are perpetually outraged at supposed threats to their own free speech, the Conservatives’ clamour to clamp down on Mr Lineker’s opinions seems deeply ironic.

Does the Leader of the House agree that it is beyond time we had a debate in this place about the use of populist rhetoric in politics and in public life before it is too late? It could refer specifically to exactly those dark times in the past that provide us with warnings about where a politics that increasingly calls on such language could be heading if we do not have the freedom to call out all such despicable attempts to other our fellow human beings. I note from the FT recently that lack of trust in politics has risen in importance as a concern for the public, so such a debate might help to restore some of that trust.

Or perhaps this might. When can we have a debate—in Government time, of course—about the Prime Minister’s tax affairs? When he was quizzed yesterday about the overdue release of his tax returns, he replied only that he would publish them “very shortly.” Our First Minister has released her tax returns from 2014-15 up to the most recent return, so why not him? Admittedly, hers show only the salary that she has received as First Minister over that time, while I appreciate that his will be rather more complicated, but will the Leader of the House use her good offices to make it happen sooner than “shortly”?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I personally like the hon. Lady very much, so I have decided to go easy on her this week, because she and her party have had a rough old time. [Interruption.] They have: they have had a rough old time. They have been attacked from all sides—of their own party. However, the hon. Lady’s colleagues have risen in my estimation. They have admitted that, in their judgment, their record in government has been poor as we all think it has been. Who would have thought that the path taken by the SNP leadership contest would be the road to Damascus? Of course, given that it is a road managed by the SNP, it is a poorly surfaced single track waiting for a dual carriageway which will never be delivered; but it is welcome nevertheless.

Yes, this week I am going to lavish praise on the SNP. While we, here in Westminster, grapple with complex issues to stop the boats, the SNP’s “stop the boats” policy is highly effective—specifically, stopping boats that would otherwise be servicing the good people of the Clyde and the Hebrides.

The hon. Lady raised important points about building trust and the importance of free speech and moderate language, so let me draw her attention to a speech that I made the other week, entitled “Trust in Britain”. It dealt with these themes, and as Leader of the House of Commons, I think they are very important. Let me draw the hon. Lady’s attention particularly to this section of my speech:

“The value of free speech is not just in your freedom to say something, but also in your ability to listen and learn something. It is also the freedom to change your mind and the freedom to be uncertain.”

I take these matters very seriously, and I hope that the hon. Lady and her party do as well.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 2nd March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I am glad to see the Leader of the House in her place today—she has not been tempted away to the seaside, I believe, with her colleagues on their away day. Many happy returns for the weekend as well.

It is perhaps no surprise that the Prime Minister scheduled the away day on a business day. Let us face it, folk are starting to notice that there is an extremely light hand on the Government’s legislative tiller these days. Last night, again, business finished early, and it is happening more often despite the big backlog of Bills, along with last-minute filler debates. It surely exposes the Government as not being in control of their agenda or their Back Benchers.

This Parliament is almost unique in the world for the Government being able to control almost all the business of the House. The Leader of the House might point to Backbench or Opposition Day debates, but the Government can and do unilaterally decide to shift those debates as they see fit. Many other Parliaments have cross-party bureaux or corporate bodies that determine business, so why not this place? Why not explore an amendable and votable business statement, which would mean that Back Benchers from all parties could have some say in the final decisions, and that business would therefore reflect the majority view? If the Government cannot do the job, I am sure that the rest of the House would gladly take it on. Yes, even the SNP, as we work under the constraints of this place—before we leave for our independent Scotland.

The Leader of the House gave a speech yesterday entitled “Trust in Britain”—a bold heading these days. I agreed with quite a few of her points, including on the importance of freedom, for example, even while I marvelled at her ability to separate her Government and her party from blame for the problems that they have caused. She acknowledged that Parliaments are struggling to be effective and relevant in the modern world. Will she take up the challenge to reform, shake up and place her stamp on this issue? I would recommend the report from University College London’s constitution unit, called “Taking back control”—she would like it.

Secondly, there is some good news about Scotland, which I am sure the Leader of the House will welcome. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that the Scottish Government’s recent Budget means that the poorest 10% of Scottish families are set to be £580 a year better off than their counterparts in England and Wales. Can we have a debate on what the UK Government can learn from Scotland on protecting the most vulnerable? Surely they are prepared to learn from others on this issue.

Finally, I have a request for the Leader of the House, who likes to use these weekly important business questions —ostensibly about the conduct of her own Government —to answer the questions that she is asked rather than use it purely as a pulpit to attack other democratically elected Governments across the UK. She really needs to understand that the purpose of her being here is to answer for her own Government’s actions, even if that is, understandably, depressing for her.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Mr Speaker, I want it to be placed on record that the hon. Lady has asked me three questions, and I anticipate that I may have more questions from her honourable colleagues. As a consequence, I would like it placed on record that my space is no longer safe, but I will soldier on. May I just welcome the SNP’s U-turn on allowing media access to their leadership contest hustings and not restricting the candidates to just one question.

Let me turn now, ruthlessly focused, to the three questions that the hon. Lady has asked me this week. She says that we have no business going through the House at the moment. We do have some big Bills to come, and she will know that we have many Bills currently waiting with their lordships. Part of the reason we have not been sitting through the night is that there is quite a lot of agreement in the House about the legislation that the Government are passing. We have had a lot of support from the Opposition Benches, which is partly why she is not having to sit for longer hours and do more.

The hon. Lady asks why we do not have an amendable business statement. I understand why an SNP Member would ask that question, because to the SNP, government is about virtue signalling, dividing nations and political posturing, but government is actually about getting things done and passing legislation. For that reason, we are concerned to control the Floor of the House to ensure that we get done what the people of the country voted for. She and her colleagues might like to try that sometime.

Finally, the hon. Lady said that her constituents were much better off than those in other parts of the UK. I gently point out that her stated policy would make them considerably worse off, because if we ever did have Scottish independence—God forbid—they would immediately lose £2,000 a head, which is the calculated cost of independence to every man, woman and child in Scotland.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 9th February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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My thanks go to Mr Speaker, the Deputy Speakers and staff of the Houses for the wonderful visit of President Zelensky yesterday. He is right: freedom will win.

I, too, extend deepest sympathies to all those affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the humanitarian emergency. I have been contacted by constituents with loved ones in those countries who have asked me to encourage the Government to consider any possible means of help, including offering even temporary refuge here.

We have heard a wee update on last week: HS2 is now rumoured to be facing even further delays of up to four more years, which means that it will be 12 years later than originally planned and the overall costs have gone stratospheric from its original £33 billion estimate up to £100 billion. Meanwhile, the Government are apparently replying to press inquiries with a snotty, “We do not comment on speculation”. Many in Scotland are furious to hear of this staggering overrun on a rail scheme that will offer us virtually no benefits. Surely the alarm bells are at ear-splitting levels, even for this Government. What can the Leader of the House do to encourage her colleagues in the Department for Transport to open up with a statement so that we can satisfy ourselves that it is only speculation and not cause for serious alarm? Can they come to the House before the Chancellor’s announced plans for HS3, 4 and 5 get anywhere near the drawing board?

Let me turn now to yet another Government project that is really not going very well: Brexit Britain. Polls show a huge rise in the number of folks realising that the brilliant Brexit bulldog they were sold is, in fact, just a poor, sick pup on life support. The evidence is stacking up wherever we look. I see that a reformed Remainer has just been persuaded to take on what must be one of the least desirable jobs in politics—chairing the Conservative party. Well done to the Leader of the House for giving that one a body-swerve, particularly now that we hear of the deputy chair’s views on capital punishment.

I wonder, though, whether in the wee small hours of the morning any of them ever think back on Brexit with a tiny tinge of regret, particularly when we hear that biometrics will likely render those precious blue passports redundant and the giant poll today—in The Daily Telegraph, no less—suggests a next general election will see their party in third place? Can we have a debate, definitely in Government time, on Brexit buyer’s remorse, where we might all finally take a good, clear, honest look at the many problems it has caused and the Government can tell us what they are doing to sort them out before everything swirls down the Brexit plughole? Thankfully, Scotland has a clear escape route available to us before then.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for what she says about Syria, Turkey and Ukraine. I am sorry she did not welcome the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) to the deputy chairmanship of the Conservative party. I am sure that many in her party like to refer to him as “30p Lee”, but I can tell her that his constituents and many people across the whole of the United Kingdom refer to him as “He stands up for me Lee”. I think it is a tremendous credit that he sits in this House with his background and experience and I wish him all the luck in his new position.

I congratulate Scotland on its Six Nations victory over England and thank both teams for a blistering game of rugby, which I very much enjoyed despite sitting next to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont), who is not a gracious winner. It was a pity, though, to learn this week that we may never see The Famous Grouse on their jerseys again or even the Guinness Six Nations tournament; indeed, the multi-million pound Johnnie Walker development in Edinburgh may be seeking a new name. I hope the Scottish Government will consult those iconic brands and distilleries and related industries, which are so important to the Scottish economy, and find a sensible way forward.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) made a double complaint, surpassing her usual complaints, about a scheme she does not want but very much wants to see happen and stories of an overspend on it. I am not going to deviate from what the Department has told her, but I would gently point out to her again that a little self-awareness goes a long way, because today we have learned also that the modest ambition of the Scottish people to have a few miles of the A9 dualled is unlikely to transpire, despite their having waited 11 years. I understand that the Minister responsible has blamed Vladimir Putin for the delay.

The hon. Lady talks about delayed projects and overspend, but this week we had to have the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions write to the Scottish Government, urging them to take up the powers on welfare that have been available to them since 2016. At the time, they said they could create an independent state by spending just £200 million, yet the assessments of their taking over the benefit system now sit at £685 million. Also this week—perhaps because the Scottish Government have difficulty managing projects and budgets—we have learned of the need for the Scottish National party to receive loans that breached electoral rules.

We have seen more unexplained loans, the 19 complaints from SNP supporters currently being investigated by the police, allegations of fraud for around 600,000 missing donations, the former treasurer who quit due to the murk of the SNP’s finances, along with three others on the Finance Committee, and, more recently, an SNP-led council that has called for another police investigation into those ferries. The SNP wants to raise tax, but not to spend it on public services; it wants to represent the people of Scotland, but does not listen to them, their views or their priorities; it wants to take authority, but with no responsibility. Scotland deserves better.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising those points. Questions to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will be on the day the House returns, but I will also write on his behalf to the Department for Work and Pensions and make sure it has heard his remarks today. I know it is a long and ongoing campaign and that many Members of the House would agree with the sentiments he has expressed.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I thank the House for its thoughts and best wishes for the family, friends and colleagues of Barry Martin, who lost his life bravely fighting a fire in my constituency of Edinburgh North and Leith.

The recent impartiality review of the BBC suggests that its reporters receive training in economics—not a bad idea. Should the Leader of the House not introduce some training in economic literacy for Ministers? It might prevent over-budget blunders such as the Ajax armoured vehicle programme, which is six years overdue, with costs of £3.2 billion so far and not a single deployable vehicle delivered; or HS2, where it is suggested that even what remains of the line could cost twice the latest official price tag of around £71 billion.

The Leader of the House speaks of stabilising the economy. Who can ever forget the Budget catastrophe of ’22, which cost us all more than £70 billion, or the double-counting of shared prosperity funds? It might even stop the rather misleading and lazy criticisms peddled every year by opposition parties about reserves in the Scottish Government’s capped budget. Is it any surprise that the UK is now the worst-performing economy in the G7? I will tell you who can get their sums right: oil and gas companies, whose obscene profits balloon while some of our most vulnerable citizens suffer. Let us have a debate on whether the call for maths to be compulsory for young people in England until they are 18 should be applied retrospectively to Ministers as well.

Lastly, this week sees Brexit’s third birthday. Its arrival was welcomed with joy and acclamation from the Government Benches, but now it seems it is naebody’s child. Yesterday we heard the Prime Minister deny that it had any impact on the cost of living crisis, but that is not what the London School of Economics says. Its research shows that Brexit caused a 6% increase in food prices over just two years, and the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that Brexit will cost every person in the UK on average £1,200. Where are the debates taking a clear-eyed look at its impacts?

Scotland, opposed to Brexit from the outset, is being told by both the Tories and Labour that there is no way back and that we should just sink with the rest of the Brexitanic. There is a way back, Mr Deputy Speaker, but only with the powers of independence will we find a way back to our friends and family in the EU. I hope they leave the light on for us.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I clocked earlier that the SNP’s theme of the week was Brexit. The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) made the same point yesterday when he invoked the metaphor of an SNP lifeboat saving the good people of Scotland from Brexit. Leaving aside the fact that, based on the SNP’s attempts to procure ferries, any lifeboat that it procured would be likely to cost three times the contract price and never materialise, I would say that Scotland does not need such a lifeboat. Rather, Scotland needs a Scottish Government whose main modus operandi is not talking down their own nation; it needs a Government who take responsibility. The hon. Lady invites me to talk about economics and wishes that Ministers had better economics lessons, but the Scottish Government have not even managed to spend their planned budget. Instead, they have an underspend of £2 billion.

I do my homework and I am always interested to learn, so I went on to the Scottish Government’s website to see what they say about the economy. Clearly, growth levels have not been what they were in previous years, so I wanted to look up what they thought the reason for that was. According to the website, it was:

“Due to the requirement for many industries to cease trading during the lockdown for COVID-19”—

nothing about Brexit or us rotters in the UK Government. It was down to covid, as the hon. Lady knows well.

The hon. Lady also knows that the UK shared prosperity fund has maintained funding to Scotland post Brexit. She knows about the Edinburgh reforms, the Financial Services and Markets Bill, and the reforms to Solvency II, which will mean so much to financial services firms in her constituency. She knows that figures reported in autumn last year show that exports in Scotland are up by £3 billion since 2018, in current prices. She knows how the green freeports will help to drive growth, and she knows that we will shortly open up an enormous, multitrillion-pound market for producers in Scotland through our accession to the CPTPP.

The whole UK has been through the mill, but we are coming through it and the future is bright. There are massive opportunities, and I invite the hon. Lady to talk them up and to talk her nation up. If the SNP was coaching the Scottish Six Nations team, it would have told them to stay in their dressing room and tied their laces together. I encourage her to be a little more positive about the future, as her constituents should be.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I, too, pay tribute to the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and all organisations and individuals who contribute so much to keeping alive the memory of the millions who were so shamefully murdered.

Today is known to some as Australia Day and to others as Invasion Day, and I pay tribute to the First Nations people of Australia and their long fight for recognition of the dreadful injustices they have suffered since European colonisation in the 1700s.

A Conservative Member, who is clearly bent on establishing himself as some kind of Conservative poundshop Farage, reportedly shouted something loathsome at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday about the 200 asylum-seeking children who are allegedly missing. It was so despicable that I will not repeat it, but the Leader of the House must know its content through the outrage on social media. Will she join me in condemning his remarks, which by victim-blaming potentially 200 missing vulnerable children, marks a new low in dehumanising language towards asylum seekers? We all know behaviour in this place can be raucous and passionate, and that emotions sometimes run very high, but surely we would all join in deploring the language used to attack the poor and defenceless among us.

I have been approached about why important pieces of legislation, such as the media Bill and the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, are still in parliamentary purgatory. What can the Leader of the House do to speed that process along? What does she have to say about these delays? The Government always have bucket loads of lame excuses for legislative hold-ups, but I think we know the true reason. A couple of weeks ago, she rather bravely tried to suggest parallels between her party, which is completely engulfed in sleaze and scandal, and mine—a case of whitabootery so bold it would make a sailor blush.

I am therefore pleased to see there will soon be an awayday at Chequers, where we are told that Tory priorities will be discussed. Perhaps the Leader of the House can arrange a statement to the House on those Government priorities, once they are finally agreed. She will not be surprised to hear that my party’s overriding priority is independence, because we see that achieving the full powers of a normal, independent country is the best and, indeed, only way to achieve a fair and progressive society for all our citizens.

However, what priorities do the Government’s actions suggest are important to them? Is it the ability to place donors on influential boards; the introduction of illiberal laws that crush inconvenient human rights and employment and environmental protections; the playing out of the mad dreams of a libertarian future using most of the population as guinea pigs who are unable to protest; or the batting away of the democratically agreed laws of another country’s Parliament with the stroke of a pen? Perhaps we will finally get an insight into that eternal question: just what is it about the Houses of Parliament that first attracted so many wealthy people to stand for office?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I start by addressing the hon. Lady’s serious point about asylum seekers, particularly with regard to their vulnerability and the vulnerability of children. Many Members have raised this issue, but one of the very sad things about the system—we recognise it is a broken system that needs reform, and we are introducing legislation to do that—is that keeping people in hotels for long periods of time increases their vulnerability. We have heard stories of gangmasters turning up at hotels where they know asylum seekers are staying to take people away. For obvious reasons, it is very hard to protect people in such an environment, so we have to address this. When we introduce legislation to tackle this issue, to get the system working more effectively and to make it fairer for both the UK taxpayer and for the very vulnerable people who are being trafficked, I hope we will have support from both sides of the House. This is a serious matter, people need protecting and they need protecting swiftly.

The hon. Lady, again, invites comparisons. I hope she will forgive me, but I cannot let this exchange pass without quoting Rabbie Burns:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

I am sure the hon. Lady and her colleagues could deliver those lines much better than I have, but I wish the SNP had the gift to see itself as others see it, or as Audit Scotland and Scottish taxpayers see it in the week in which the Auditor General for Scotland, Stephen Boyle, called for greater transparency on the colossal underspend in the SNP’s budget. Very often, Scottish National party Members come to this House asking for additional funding from the UK Government, but the SNP has underspent its budget by nearly £2 billion—that is the equivalent of 7,142 nurses. I am sorry to say that the areas of underspend were in education and skills, the economy, net zero and transport, and also in money given to the covid response.

The hon. Lady paints a picture of Scotland and of the people she represents that I do not recognise. I say to her that she is governing a great and dynamic country, one that stiffens the backbone and reinforces the soul. It is the nation of Fleming, Dunlop, McAdam, Watt, Telford—[Interruption.]

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 19th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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You know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have had this role for only a few weeks, but I was under the impression that I would get a few more relevant answers to my questions. Instead, what I get every week is rubbish prepared lines read out by the Leader of the House—performance art, if you like—written by someone who either has no knowledge or care for Scotland and its people or whose aim is to make Scotland sound like a basket case, because cynically they know that mud sticks if something is repeated often enough, even if it is not true.

Perhaps we should have a debate on the quality of ministerial answers to questions. As a political opponent, one cannot help but be grateful for this weekly illustration of the contempt in which the Westminster Government hold our beautiful country and indeed the voters who inconveniently keep rejecting the Leader of the House’s party and supporting mine. It is almost as if our electorate can see through the drivel that they are being fed. If her aim is still to be Prime Minister for the whole of the UK—while it lasts—I am not sure whether annoying great swathes of Scotland’s people is really the way to go about it, but far be it from me to dissuade her.

May we also have a debate about unintended consequences? Just this week, a senior Minister dismissed the views of a holocaust survivor. The Government have also continued to infuriate NHS workers, rail workers, ambulance drivers, union members, trans groups, Scottish independence supporters, the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government, and shunted through a Bill that will snarl up many hundreds of civil servants in red tape—one could not make it up—simply because of their blinkered hatred of the EU. Finally, there was the decision to use a sledgehammer to crack the delicate nut of devolved relations through the use of the “governor-general” clause. If the Government keep that up, they will not have any friends left—apart from their many generous corporate sponsors.

Despite it all, I will attempt another question, because this is important. Yesterday, I was pleased to see the Government shifting their position on trans conversion therapy, but sadly they seemed to backtrack the very same day. Will the Leader of the House assure us that that she will use her good offices with her colleagues and make every effort to prevent the forthcoming Bill from being used to stoke culture wars, as her colleagues attempted recently in the Scottish Parliament? I am sure she agrees that trans people deserve nothing less.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I shall try to make my answers incredibly relevant. The hon. Lady raised questions of relevance and unintended consequences, and she mentioned blinkered hatred. She will know that in our sessions, which I enjoy very much, I am a great campaigner on relevance. I always try to make my answers relevant. I hope that, one day, the SNP will make its questions relevant to the issues facing the people of Scotland, such as healthcare and education, and all those things that they want their Government to grip, and not be so focused on constitutional reform, important though that is to the SNP.

The hon. Lady talks about unintended consequences. In all seriousness, we do not have to believe in the union of the United Kingdom to recognise that we all have a duty of care to every citizen in every part of the UK, no matter which part of the UK we are from and represent. That means having a regard for the social fabric and the social contract of the UK. The power that she refers to has been in existence for nearly 25 years—it is only marginally younger than the deputy leader of her group—and this is the first time that we have used it. It is not like we just discovered it down the back of the sofa. What has happened is a significant and rare thing, and is a serious thing. The powers were created as part of the devolution process in part because of the potential of such a scenario. It is because we have been placed in this position—the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would have serious implications for the working of the Equality Act 2010—that we have done what we have done. It would have been better if the SNP had had regard to those unintended consequences; it is not as if they were not aware of them. The Minister for Women and Equalities raised the issue in correspondence and meetings with their Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, and officials had been raising it for some time. Given where we are and the worry that the issue will cause people, I hope that we can resolve the situation swiftly and in a spirit of co-operation and pragmatism. Our citizens, including those who are trans, deserve that.

The hon. Lady’s final comment was about blinkered hatred; I would say that the SNP ought to check their own behaviour before they start pointing the finger at other people on that front.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 12th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, and bliadhna mhath ùr to everyone. Goodness, where to start this week? Panicked draconian legislation trampling workers’ rights, news that £42 billion in unpaid tax is being lost each year to the UK Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Scotland’s claiming yesterday that there is no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU, which will be news to the estimated 78% of my constituents who voted to remain.

Following questions on the new Westminster Accounts database, we learned that the Prime Minister supports transparency around political donations and outside interests, although oddly it did not seem high on his agenda when I asked him recently about the influence of opaquely funded think-tanks on Government policy. Nor did it seem high up the agenda of the previous three Prime Ministers when I asked them about meetings with bodies such as the infamous Cambridge Analytica, details of which mysteriously failed to appear on ministerial records.

The Prime Minister was asked whether companies that do not seem to exist should donate to MPs, in relation to hefty donations made to some Labour MPs. He must therefore have been very troubled by openDemocracy reports showing that obscure firms with no listed addresses bankrolled hordes of Tory red wall candidates in the last election. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether she supports calls for an inquiry into the donations system to root out secretive campaign finance from our politics and protect our democracy?

Lastly, I note that The Press and Journal yesterday ran an article quoting UK Government sources as saying that Cromarty firth would be one of the sites selected for freeport status, alongside the firth of Forth bid. I have checked with Scottish Government sources, who tell me they have not been consulted on this disclosure ahead of the formal announcement, which is expected on Friday. That is a pretty serious breach of trust when we consider that the Scottish and UK Governments were supposedly working together in partnership on those proposals. It was clearly leaked to the media in yet another pathetic attempt to steal a march on Scotland’s Government. Will the Leader of the House undertake to investigate who decided to bypass protocol in that way? It is no wonder the people of Scotland have so little confidence in Westminster Governments when such infantile games of spin are being played.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I say happy new year to the hon. Lady? I admire her very much; she is plucky and brave and she has decided to press me on campaign finance. The SNP is asking questions about campaign finance, so let us start with the Scottish nationalists’ deciding to ignore other private sector firms and give support to bail out a smelting business—to the tune of £5 million per job retained, although they were not retained—that just happened to be a sponsor of the SNP’s party conference. There is so much more material, but I do not want to detain the House. I welcome any investigations into such financial matters.

I had hoped at the start of the new year that the Scottish nationalists might focus on the issues that are of concern to the Scottish people. I wonder what would happen if they focused on, for example, the tragic situation of addiction in Scotland, which currently has the largest number of drug-related deaths anywhere in Europe and the largest number of alcohol-related deaths anywhere in the UK. Imagine if they made it their mission to sort that out this year, instead of spending so much time—as they did in the first debate they held this year—on independence. Indeed, if that does not appeal to them, how about improving education; reducing the attainment gap, which they have widened; reducing waiting times at A&E departments, which are at record levels; cutting violent crime; or bringing forward their broadband roll-out to rural areas, some of which are having to wait until 2027?

It is my wish for the new year that the SNP starts to focus on those issues. Scotland needs it to.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 8th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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It is a little frustrating that the procedures of this place mean that I have to wait a week before I can respond to comments that the Leader of the House makes in business questions, but the motto of Leith in my constituency is “Persevere!”, so persevere I shall.

The Leader of the House likes to play the schoolmarm, but last week’s efforts deserved 100 lines on context. For example, she said that Scotland has the worst A&E waiting times on record while failing to mention that England’s A&E waiting times are the worst on record too and that Scotland’s are nevertheless considerably better than England’s. Some context, as I am sure any schoolmarm would agree, is important.

I recognise that attack is the best form of defence, but I wonder if the time has come for the Government to install the independent House of Commons fact-checking service that some have called for—a real one, not the Conservative pretendy one we saw in 2019—with instant replay, an adjudication function, a claxon and perhaps a “Three strikes and you’re out” feature.

It has been such an exciting week, and not just for those of us in the Westminster SNP group. The Government are in a shambles again, with further revelations about Baroness Mone, VIP lanes and PPE contracts, and the release of Labour’s “Gordy Broon” commission report, which seems only to have left people wondering why Labour thinks it can impose its constitutional proposals on Scotland because of a democratic mandate it hopes to win at the next election but it will not recognise the democratic mandate for an independence referendum won by the Scottish Government at several elections. He is trying to save his precious Union, with assortments from his big bag of vows, so could the Government perhaps humour an old ex-Prime Minister and allow a debate on the devolution of powers to the so-called extremities—extremities being, of course, everywhere that is not London? Given the mood of current red-wallers on the Conservative Back Benches, it might prove a popular move.

Speaking of popular moves, lastly, I notice that the Leader of the House has been sharing her weekly contributions on the SNP on social media, but if she ever looks below the line, she will notice that the vast majority of comments are from people in Scotland absolutely infuriated by her remarks. And guess what? Just yesterday, a major Scottish poll told us that 56% of our people support independence, and that support for the Tories has crashed to a mere 14%, so I say to her: keep those media clips coming! Her unwitting but welcome embrace of the cause of independence for Scotland will not be forgotten.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady mentions the report produced by the former Prime Minister, and although I welcome debate, I think they are flawed ideas. I shall not call him yesterday’s man, but Labour is increasingly looking like yesterday’s party.

The hon. Lady has painted me as a schoolmarm this week, so I shall role play and give an arithmetic lesson. The Scottish Government have complained this week that they are having to make £1 billion of cuts, despite the fact that they have 26% more funding per head than England, and I just have some suggestions about how she might find that. She might cancel the £20 million on a referendum that is not happening, or the £9 million on the eight embassies they run. She could look at the £300 million they have spent so far on two ferries, which are five years late and £150 million over budget, or at the £52.4 million on the collapsed BiFab company or the £5 million on climate change reparations. She could look at the nearly £600 million they spent to bail out Sanjeev Gupta’s smelting business, or the half a million pounds wasted on a publicly owned energy company that never happened. That adds up to over £1 billion, but instead the Scottish National party is going to have to cut frontline services and capital projects to balance the Government’s books. As the Auditor General has pointed out this week, he has lifted the veil on the scale of the SNP’s financial incompetence. I think the people of Scotland deserve better than that, and that is why I will be putting this clip out later.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this important matter. I know that he thinks deeply about such issues. Whatever the security policies of those Departments, I can see no reason why he, a Privy Counsellor, should not be briefed by the Departments on Privy Council terms. I will write on his behalf to the Cabinet Office to ask that that happens.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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The Leader of the House does not seem to like answering any of my constitutional questions directly. Right enough, they are a bit tricky for her Government, but God loves a trier, so let us see if she can answer this. In the Scottish Affairs Committee this week, the Secretary of State for Scotland revealed that the head of the UK civil service is looking into whether officials in Scotland will be allowed to do work related to our next independence referendum, following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week. The notion that it is unlawful for the Scottish Government to pursue independence as a policy goal has been dismissed by legal academics, including former Tory MSP Professor Adam Tomkins. Aileen McHarg, professor of public law and human rights at Durham University, described it as a “ludicrous position”. There seems to be a new measure of Scottish independence support as well: the duck test. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing distinguished constitutional academics’ views on that.

The Supreme Court’s decision has exposed the undemocratic lack of a legal mechanism by which the Scottish Parliament can hold an independence referendum. Surely the UK Government’s attention should be on addressing that, not on inhibiting the work of the civil service. I received a muddled response from Scotland Office Ministers. The first said that money allocated to Scotland by the UK Treasury came with “no strings attached”; then another stepped in to say that this was a matter for the civil service, and that we would need to see “how this plays out”. Can the Leader of the House offer any clarity? Perhaps there could be a statement on duck tests to establish exactly who decides whether support for Scottish independence passes the appropriate avian measurements.

Lastly, why will the Chancellor not follow the lead of the Scottish Government and introduce a UK equivalent of the Scottish child payment? The Joseph Rowntree Foundation described the increase to £25 a week per eligible child as a “watershed moment”. It also found that if the payment were extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a further 5.3 million children would be eligible for that crucial support. As we approach a very difficult winter, perhaps Labour will join the SNP in urging Ministers to hold a debate or make a statement on what more the Government will do to tackle this shameful poverty. The UK Government have far more tools at their disposal than the devolved Governments, and it is high time that they showed the same political will as them.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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As the hon. Lady suggests, I am a simple girl. I read the evidence from the Committee sitting to which she referred, and I understand that Secretary of State for Scotland will clarify the matter that she mentioned. I can tell her that the Scottish Government’s spending the unrestricted funds that they get on their project of a further referendum is a colossal waste of money. The Scottish Government and Parliament is one of the most powerful devolved Administrations in the world, with huge authority that the SNP has done its best not to take up, with responsibilities that the SNP has done its best to shirk, and with the largest budget it has ever had that the SNP has done its best to squander.

The reason Scotland has low job creation is that it has the lowest PISA—programme for international student assessment—ranking since that measure was created. It has 700 fewer police officers than a year ago and the worst A&E wait times on record. That the hon. Lady’s constituency has the lowest funding settlement per person in Scotland is not because of the UK Government, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Supreme Court, the good people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Brexit or Britain, but because of her party, the SNP, and its obsession with issues that the Scottish people wish it would leave aside to focus on what matters to them.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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What a timely question from my hon. Friend. I join him in sending congratulations. The World cup presents a huge opportunity to get people interested in the sport. Grassroots football is absolutely fantastic in giving people that opportunity, encouraging talent and, of course, contributing to health and wellbeing across the nations, so I thank my hon. Friend for raising that today.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I associate myself with the comments made about violence against women and girls and Islamophobia Awareness Month. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for an independence referendum without Westminster’s permission. I make it clear that the Scottish National party fully respects and accepts the Court’s judgment. It should be emphasised, however, that the Supreme Court does not make the law; it interprets and applies it. The Court was not asked to decide whether there is a democratic mandate for a referendum, nor was it asked what democratic means remain by which Scotland can choose its future.

The ruling proves beyond doubt that it is no longer—if it ever has been—a voluntary or equal Union, so the situation we are in transcends arguments for and against independence. This is fundamentally an issue of democracy. Do the people of Scotland have a right to self-determination? If we do, will the Leader of the House tell us how that right can be exercised if the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to do so? If the people of Scotland keep electing a majority of pro-independence MSPs and MPs, what is the democratic route to realising that mandate? Will the UK Government recognise that democratic injustice and amend the Scotland Act 1998 so that the right to self-determination for the people of Scotland is protected, or will they continue to deny democracy?

Later this afternoon, a Westminster Hall debate is taking place on the infected blood inquiry and compensation framework. That terrible tragedy continues to devastate lives. Last month, following decades of campaigning, the Government paid interim compensation payments of £100,000 to those infected and bereaved widows and partners. However, the families, estates and carers of deceased victims are being excluded from any interim compensation, which is an enormous injustice that the UK Government are carrying out in plain sight. My constituent, Justine Gordon-Smith, is the executor for her late father Randolph’s estate. Justine was her father’s carer throughout his painful struggle and ultimate passing, and she has suffered enormous and lasting personal trauma. When will people such as Justine receive justice? Will the Government make an urgent statement on the specific issue of excluded family members such as my constituent?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady, and I hope that she had a good birthday, which I understand was yesterday—

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock
- Hansard - -

indicated dissent.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Oh no, my intelligence was wrong! Well, I am glad to hear that, because I thought that it would be very unfortunate if it fell on the same day as the Supreme Court ruling.

Let me start with the infected blood inquiry and the interim compensation scheme. That is incredibly important, and I am glad that the Government have made some interim payments. It is not often recognised that, as well as the initial wrong that those people had to suffer, they have also suffered layers and layers of injustice over years and years. That includes the loss of their homes, the inability to take a job, travel or get insurance, the stigma, further inequality for their children, and many other things. We are very conscious of that.

I was pleased to set up the compensation review. I am glad that it is having a positive impact for some families, but we must ensure that all the injustices that people have suffered are properly dealt with and that they are compensated. To do some of that properly, we will need the main inquiry to report, but rest assured that the Government have acted on this after years and years of other Governments not acting, and we are determined that to see that justice is done.

The hon. Lady asks what the mechanism is with regard to the Supreme Court ruling. The implication of her question is that a mechanism does not exist. If that was so, how on earth did we have a referendum roughly eight years ago? Even if the SNP wishes to forget the fact that we did or to ignore the result, there was discussion. Political parties, the Scottish and UK Governments and civil society agreed with one another. There was a consensus, and we decided in this very Chamber that that should be so on 15 January 2013. None voted against it, and I have brought the Hansard from that day with me. Those are the facts. SNP Members try to paint themselves as the defenders of democracy, despite ignoring the result of the referendum and despite their voting to deny the people of Scotland and the whole UK their say on whether to be part of the EU—I have brought that Hansard with me, too. I remind the House that the SNP was the only party to vote against the EU referendum. Despite believing passionately in the Union of the United Kingdom, Conservative Members and I voted to give the Scottish people a say.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 17th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this incredibly serious matter. It is not my area of expertise, but I cannot imagine that the situation he describes is compatible with Serco’s duty of care, nor its contractual obligations. He has clearly raised the issue with the Department and had no satisfaction, so I will write on his behalf and ask that there is a meeting between him and the relevant official in the Department. I will also suggest that Ministers hold a surgery for colleagues who may face similar situations.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I associate myself with the Leader of the House’s comments about the appalling decisions of the Iranian Parliament.

I could raise the financial statement, but so much of it was trailed beforehand that it feels like old news, so I will leave it until next week’s debates—except to wonder why extra resources need to go towards cracking down on vanishingly small amounts of benefit fraud but not on rampant tax evasion.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister about the influence on our politics of opaquely funded think-tanks. That was timely, because an audit published today by openDemocracy and Who Funds You? shows that some of those think-tanks have raised more than £14 million between them in just two years, from donors whose identity is a complete mystery to us. That is important, because these think-tanks appear willy-nilly across media outlets such as the BBC and have had lots of ministerial meetings since 2012. Their policies have helped to inspire disastrous Government experiments such as the former Prime Minister’s mini-Budget. I am confident that the Leader of the House joins me in believing that it is only right for the public to know exactly who funds organisations that seem to wield such power in our democratic systems, so she will applaud the fact that I have written to the Prime Minister today to ask him again for an urgent meeting to discuss his position.

I must mention the Leader of the Opposition’s successful recent mini-break in Scotland—successful for the SNP’s polling figures, that is. Not only did he continue to deny democracy by telling the people of Scotland that on his watch they would never get a chance to decide their future for themselves, but he continued to deny reality by suggesting that he and his party can confound the predictions of almost every economist and trade expert and somehow make the deeply unpopular catastrophe of Brexit work. He is welcome back any time.

Lastly, the all-party parliamentary group on the environment enjoyed a helpful discussion yesterday with Canada’s high commissioner about the next COP15 on biodiversity, which is to be hosted in Montreal in December under China’s presidency. There is a bit of a fear that COP15 is being a little overshadowed by its better-known cousin COP27. That is a real problem, because it is vital that COP15 goes ahead and that major commitments are made. Will the Leader provide a debate on it in Government time to highlight its crucial messages?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I look forward—although I am sorry we have to wait until next week for it—to the hon. Lady’s welcome for the additional £1.5 billion in funding that was announced today. I am sorry that she did not take the opportunity to welcome the next batch of Type 26 frigates, which will secure jobs at Rosyth. I cannot imagine why the SNP does not want to talk about shipbuilding.

This week, we heard from Professor Keith Hartley, a defence expert, who said that warship construction would grind to a halt and thousands of jobs would be lost if Scotland were to leave the UK. He also warned that it was unlikely that an independent Scotland would have a particularly large navy. Based on the SNP’s performance at procuring ferries, I think he is probably right. I have often spoken about the SNP’s reality gap: the chasm between what SNP Members continually talk about and the concerns of the Scottish people. The Auditor General for Scotland has now pointed to an “implementation gap”: the abyss between the SNP’s rhetoric and the reality of its delivery on the ground.

I have been suggesting a bit of homework for the hon. Lady every week. The homework I am setting her today for the debate on Monday is a question to think about: if the SNP is so concerned about balancing the books and the budget of the Scottish Government, why does it not drop the constitution budget, drop the plans for a second referendum and focus on the NHS instead?

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 3rd November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Last week the Leader of the House asked me a question, Mr Speaker—and I will answer it, now that I have the opportunity.

The Leader of the House quoted those anonymous but, of course, completely legit—I will pause for a knowing wink here—sources from the EU who apparently told eager journalists something that we have actually all known for a very long time: that countries applying to join the EU, as Scotland can once it regains its independence, must commit themselves to joining the euro at some point in the future. Now, the Leader of the House may not know this, but there are in fact seven countries that have been in the EU for between nine and 27 years and still use their own choice of currency—Sweden, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Romania —so that is not quite the gotcha that Unionists thought it was.

Given the slide in the value of the pound, from $1.64 in 2014 to just $1.13 today, and after the mad ride of the last few weeks, I am not sure that this Government think all that much of the pound anyway. For the purpose of further useful insights for both the Leader of the House and the Labour Front Benchers, enabling them to acquire some grown-up, stepped-up facts on the issues, I suggest that they look out the series of papers that the Scottish Government are producing on all things Scottish independence. A debate on those would, I think, be very useful to the House.

COP27 will take place next week. I was pleased to learn that the Prime Minister has relented and will now be joining our First Minister at Sharm El-Sheikh, but once the dust has settled on that world event, there really should be a Government debate on the outcomes of COP, examining the role that the UK Government played in negotiations and, crucially, how they intend to step up to their responsibilities in tackling the climate crisis. We cannot allow the terrible economic crisis that we face, or even Russia’s dreadful war in Ukraine, to deflect us from our climate obligations. UN reports have warned that the world is close to irreversible breakdown, with no credible path to even the 1.5° C global warming target.

According to a Public Accounts Committee report released on Wednesday, the UK Government’s commitment that the public sector should “lead by example” in meeting net zero is not being fulfilled. The report criticised the poor quality of emissions measuring and reporting, among other things. Just this week, we learned that parts of this place are apparently producing and leaking heat at an alarming rate. I hope the Leader of the House will be taking up those findings with the House services, and I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, will be taking an interest in them as well. The Prime Minister and his Ministers need to front up and reassure the House and the public that they are taking their climate responsibilities seriously. A debate on this in Government time is essential.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for doing the homework that I set her last week. I take it all back: she has had a really productive week, figuring out how to square the establishment of the Scottish pound with joining the euro. We appreciate that very much. However, I say to the SNP again that these are not the issues on the Scottish people’s list of priorities. They are worried about health, about poor education standards, and about their bins being collected. We had an amazing situation last night, when Madam Deputy Speaker had to include herself and the Tellers in the count to make the House quorate. The debate is so far removed from the reality of what is happening in Scotland that Members on both sides of the House are not even prepared to show up to disagree with the Scottish nationalists. I would just ask them to drag themselves back to the real world.

I am pleased to hear about the paper that is being produced. I look forward to its including the almost £1.5 billion that the UK Government have committed for 12 city and growth deals covering every part of Scotland, the £42 million for Scottish fisheries, the £1.9 billion for farmers and land managers over the next three years, the £52 million to support the establishment of two Scottish green freeports, the £179 million levelling-up funding for eight Scottish projects, and, of course, the support given for 1,700 jobs through the fantastic £3.7 billion type 26 shipbuilding programme at BAE Systems’ Govan yard, of which I particularly approve. I look forward to the inclusion of all those things in the paper.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is good to see the Leader of the House in her place. I am glad to hear that she is not too disappointed to find herself back here again, answering probing questions from the House, such as this one: if the new Prime Minister can claim yesterday a mandate to govern based on the Tory 2019 manifesto, why will he not recognise the even clearer mandate for an independence referendum, as laid out in multiple SNP manifestos and voted for by a clear majority of Scottish voters, as legitimate? I look forward to the Leader of the House’s answer.

Weren’t there waves of relief from those on the Tory Benches yesterday as they joyfully registered that their jobs were possibly safe for a little while longer? However, criticism has already begun about the new Prime Minister’s choices and judgment; it has been described by others far unkinder than me as a Cabinet of retreads. That does not point to a bright new future for this Government. Most questionably, perhaps, we now have a Home Secretary who admitted breaking the ministerial code, apparently multiple times, and resigned over it just days ago, but she has been given a free pass back. Yes, an investigation is needed, but should this place not produce a guide or pamphlet on “How to be a Secretary of State” —or even a “Secretary of State for Dummies”—for those chosen for these positions?

I do not wish to trivialise the Westminster psychodrama, but there is news that makes all that look like the proverbial storm in a teacup: the three main greenhouse gases were at their highest level ever in 2021, and the UK is not even halfway to meeting its climate targets in the 2030s and being net zero by 2050. Yet new licences for oil and gas exploration are being issued; we have a climate Minister who seems to think that that is good news for the environment; and the COP26 President has lost his position and influence at the Cabinet table, although he has since demanded that the Prime Minister explain how increased licensing dovetails with the UK’s legally binding green commitments. I hope that the Leader of the House will not be tempted to refer to the lazy haverings of Scottish branch colleagues and accuse the SNP of not supporting oil and gas workers in the industry. After all, the Scottish Government have committed £500 million to transitioning from a reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy, a commitment the UK Government have still to match.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations warns that we are rapidly approaching the point of no return and that we must prioritise the climate or face catastrophe. Is it not time this Government took seriously the message that scientists, academics, students and ordinary citizens are trying to tell us through their protests and all work together urgently to reach net zero and quite literally save our planet?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady asks me why we do not acknowledge the mandate to have a referendum. As I say every week, it is because we have had one. I long for the day when SNP Members will follow the democratic mandate of the people of Scotland. It was a once-in-a-generation vote. Now is not the time to be trying to have another one. People should be focused on the needs of the Scottish people—on improving educational standards and getting people access to health. However, I know that is what I say to her every week, so let me give her another reason. We learn today that, for there to be an independent Scotland in Europe, Scotland would have to join the euro. If she can tell us how she intends to do that, I will be happy to take her question again.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in wishing everyone happy Diwali. I thank him for his update on Backbench business and for stressing the importance of those debates. The issues that colleagues have put forward for such debates show how helpful an innovation they are, and I urge colleagues to apply for them.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I, too, wish everyone a very happy Diwali when it comes.

It is good to see the Leader of the House still in her place, but perhaps this is our last exchange. Who knows who will be asked to close their eyes, think of Britain and become the next Prime Minister? Given that the jaiket of the current incumbent is clearly on a shoogly peg, I think the Leader of the House should go for it. The 1922 Committee chair reportedly entered No. 10 just now. If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.

Alternatively, it may be that, after the latest developments in the Government’s implosion, including a “resignation” from a great office of state—the former Home Secretary fulfils that dream of making the front page of the Telegraph, eh?—the Leader of the House’s party is running out of candidates for the job and she will simply assume it. That is assuming she still wants to inherit this Icarus economy so spectacularly burned and crashed by the Government, leading to International Monetary Fund and Bank of England interventions as if the UK were a rudderless economy with no one at the wheel. Come to think of it, that seems to be the course Britain is set on now, with all of us having been treated as economic laboratory mice, trapped within the deluded constructs of libertarian think-tanks. A debate on some sort of compulsory training for Ministers on the basics of economics might be helpful.

Many of us, in this place and outside it, are finding it a bit of a struggle to keep up with events, so can we have a statement, please, on exactly who the members of the Government are just now? I believe the Government are bringing in legislation today mounting further attacks on trade unions and introducing a minimum level of service guarantee for the rail network. Surely it is time we brought in a minimum level of service guarantee for Westminster Governments.

While we are at it, a debate on molestation, reflections and intimidation, as outlined in “Erskine May”, might prove useful. As I am sure the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy knows only too well, in the 18th century, insulting or menacing Members, or trying by force to influence them in their conduct in Parliament, was “roundly condemned” and considered a contempt. The time is clearly ripe for refresher courses.

The temptation is always to have a bit of fun with these weekly jousts over the political soap opera, but there is little room for amusement this week. I am all too conscious of the millions of people who are still looking to this place to provide them with some reassurance that those in charge have a clear idea of the problems they face and know what to do to sort them. All four nations are looking on aghast at the shambles this Government have created for themselves but, far more seriously, for all of our citizens. The attractions of an independent Scotland, free of this burach of a place, grow ever greater. General election—now.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am actually quite cheered by what the hon. Lady said, because I had always thought the expression was, “Close your eyes and think of England”. Given that she asked us to close our eyes and think of Britain, I think I am starting to make some progress with her.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not mention any of the economic support that we have put through the House this week for the citizens in Scotland. I have to tell her that, as we prepare for a statement on 31 October, there is a policy being touted that would cost every single person in Scotland £2,184. I do not know what her views on that would be—whether she would be for or against a policy that would take £2,184 off every individual in Scotland. She looks confused. Let me help her out. She is for such a policy because that is the price of her divided policies.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 13th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Let me begin by associating myself with the comments of the Leader of the House about Sir David Amess.

We are struggling through particularly difficult days, and the Prime Minister’s desperate deflection from the topic of the economic crisis, and her Business Secretary’s refusal even to admit that the dramatic crash just after the mini-Budget had anything to do with it, fail to reassure. However, this was also a week in which Tory politicians clutched their pearls in horror to discover that many people in the UK—including our First Minister in Scotland—do not like the fact that they support a party whose increasingly chaotic mismanagement and cold-hearted political ideology are viewed with utter abhorrence.

It seems that this blindness to reality goes all the way to the top. In her conference speech, the Prime Minister said:

“I know what it is like to live somewhere that isn’t feeling the benefits of economic growth. I grew up in Paisley and in Leeds in the 80s and 90s. I have seen the boarded-up shops…I have seen families struggling to put food on the table.”

That was an odd reference, given that those were of course the days of the Government of her hero, the late Margaret Thatcher—although, as she seems intent on returning us to those days, perhaps not. After all, this Government are threatening “iron discipline” on spending and “difficult decisions” coming down the line. May we therefore have a debate entitled “Economic History: Lessons Learned”? I understand that the Chancellor studied that subject at Cambridge; I think it is about time he had a refresher.

This week sees the start of the independence referendum Supreme Court case. I note that back in June 2014, before the last independence referendum, the Scotland Office issued a research and analysis sheet on the Scots’ personal finance, which stated:

“As part of the UK, our savings are protected by UK-wide institutions and the costs of the essentials you spend money on—like energy and mortgage bills—are kept lower and more stable than they would otherwise be.”

Just how far removed that is from where we find ourselves today would almost be funny were it not so frightening for our constituents. May we have a debate examining the promises—the vows, if you like—made to the Scottish people at the time of the last referendum which have let them down so badly, to ensure that they will not be misled again before the next one?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady has made an excellent suggestion for a debate. We could talk about the tax dividend that every Scottish household receives as a result of being part of the United Kingdom. We could talk about the various schemes that the UK Government have provided to support our people through the cost of living issues that we are facing—most recently, the enormous energy pricing package. We could also discuss the Scottish National party’s record on drugs, on health, on education, even perhaps on bin collection; and finally, we could discuss SNP Members’ total lack of self-awareness when it comes to their own tragic record.

Business of the House

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 22nd September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I thank the Leader of the House for her statement. I, too, pay tribute, on behalf of my SNP colleagues and myself, to the staff of these Houses of Parliament for their exceptional work in preparing and carrying out the various ceremonies and duties required after the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth. They were outstanding.

I welcome very much the content of the statutory instruments that we will be debating this afternoon to tighten the sanctions against Putin and his supporters, particularly after his recent threats. I see recently, though, that US intelligence estimates that more than $300 million dollars of Russian money has been ploughed into influencing politicians in more than 24 countries. It is suggested that that is just the tip of the iceberg, so can we have a debate in Government time about thwarting possible Russian influence on UK politics to reassure the public?

Is it not extraordinary that despite only sitting a handful of times since the end of July, and our constituents facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades, Members are about to trot off for conference recess rather than debating these problems fully here and now. We can at least expect a short fiscal statement before then, elements of which have been trailed in the media—this Government displaying their customary almost casual disrespect for this place. We have seen some of the rabbits the Chancellor likely intends to pull out of his hat on Friday, but so far they look awfully like leftovers from the discredited trickle-down economics theory that is so beloved of the right wing, but that, as President Biden pointed out recently, has never worked.

I hear, too, that the Government are today lodging their Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, or, as it was formerly known, the comically named Brexit freedoms Bill. I say comical, but the prospect of this House and the devolved Parliaments being bogged down again for many months in secondary legislation as the zealots on the Government Benches try to extinguish every trace of the EU from UK legislation— threatening protections for workers’ rights and food standards, among so many other things—is far from funny. Can the Leader of the House indicate when that Bill will come to the House for debate?

Finally, it is no wonder that data from the latest British social attitudes survey, which is out today, shows that support in Scotland for the Union continues to drop like a stone, as more and more folk recognise that only independence offers them hope and a progressive future.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks to all who contributed to the mourning of our late Queen. I know that the House authorities are considering how Members can express their gratitude towards staff for what they have done, perhaps using the intranet, so that all staff can read how we feel and how proud we are of what they have done.

Our Prime Minister has recommitted us at the UN General Assembly and sent a message to the world that our resolve towards Ukraine will not waver, and that we will continue to lead the charge on combating Russian aggression. That includes the financial measures that we have pioneered and on which we have led others. That will continue, and there will be time for Members to raise this in the general debate today. I reassure the hon. Lady that I, the Chief Whip and others have ensured that the time we have rightly taken to mourn Her late Majesty does not slow down our legislative programme. We are confident that whether it is on the cost of living, on sanctions or on any other matter, there will be no real-world delay to the introduction of those measures.

The hon. Lady asked specifically about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. We will bring that forward for First Reading on 11 October, and we will continue to push and speed up legislation, whether it is on growth or on the other measures that we are bringing to the Floor of the House.

I think all the four nations of our United Kingdom have shown over the last few weeks the strength that there is in unity. It has been the most tremendous event—a tremendous coming together and a tremendous welcoming of our new King, King Charles III. I am absolutely confident that public opinion and the strength of the United Kingdom will remain strong in all four nations of this United Kingdom.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 16th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The UK Government, as we have heard, are in talks with 25 individual US states, in the hope of establishing tailored free trade agreements. I believe that the Cabinet has set California and Texas in its immediate sights. If the UK Government have no qualms in entering into trade agreements with sub-state actors such as those US states and do not think that that violates US sovereignty, why do they oppose the Scottish Government entering into their own free trade negotiations?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This argument, I am afraid, is a false one, and it has also been perpetrated with regard to the Australia deal. The structures and kinds of regulations and laws that we are talking about are not equivalent. In Australia’s case, we are not talking about law or EU retained law; we are talking about guidelines that sit at state level. Obviously, the MOUs that we are agreeing with US states are not free trade agreements in terms of tariffs; they talk about our regulation, mutual recognition of qualifications and all of those things. Within those MOUs, we are actually doing partnerships between particular locations of the UK, which could include the devolved nations. Northern Ireland has such an MOU with other parts of the US, and I encourage the Scottish Government to get on board, because there would be massive advantages to people in Scotland if they did so.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 21st October 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Because of poorly negotiated ideology-driven free trade deals, farmers will have no choice, if their businesses are to survive, but to resort to more intensive, less climate-friendly farming to compete with cheaper imports from such places as Australia—pretty shameful in the year that the UK hosts COP. Has the Department for International Trade, alongside colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, analysed how this shift will impact on local pollution levels and our wider greenhouse gas footprint?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to hear that very pessimistic question. I do not think our farmers in the UK are going to do that at all. I think they care deeply about animal welfare and I think they care deeply about the environment. I look forward to the press release from the Scottish Government championing the benefits to Scottish businesses that come from the New Zealand trade deal that we talked through with them yesterday. They are considerable and they ought to start talking up their businesses, their farmers and their food and drink sector, rather than doing it down.

Future Relationship with the EU

Debate between Deidre Brock and Penny Mordaunt
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can give my hon. Friend greater assurance than that, because there is a very firm deadline, which is that at the end of this year, we and others have to legislate. Time is running out. We will carry on negotiating until there is no hope left, and the statement made yesterday would indicate that, unless progress is made, Sunday may well be that deadline.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) [V]
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On Tuesday, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation said that his members could not agree export sales for next year with any certainty as they cannot be sure what tariffs may apply, what delays they may face or how much they will get paid for their goods. He also said that there is a shortage of general ambient warehousing space and cold chain storage. Businesses are trying to stockpile against the shocks and offset increased costs, but how can they do that if there is not facility for that stockpiling? What are the Government going to do about that, and why on earth have they not thought this through sooner than just three weeks before exit day?