Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think it is clear that external meetings that relate to Government business are minuted and that is routine civil service practice. But I think the hon. Gentleman has received replies from a large number of Ministers, including from my own office, although I am afraid that my office said that we followed the practice of the Cabinet Office because the Office of the Leader of the House technically comes under the Cabinet Office. But we do take minutes. It is what the civil service does and does very effectively.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Next Friday, I am bringing in a Bill to ban the importing of hunting trophies. The public and all parties, including the Leader of the House’s party, agree on this issue. Last month, I raised it at Prime Minister’s questions and he replied that the Government were going to introduce legislation, but there is still no sign of it. So will the Leader of the House either urgently bring a Bill to the House or tell his Whips not to block my Bill next week, so that we can get a law as soon as possible and end this vile trade once and for all?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman has asked the Prime Minister and is now asking me. He has asked the organ grinder, and I do not quite know why he has come to the monkey. None the less, the monkey will do his best to say that it is Government policy to ban the importing of hunting trophies and that legislation is likely to come forward in the fullness of time, but there is no specific introduction date.

House of Commons Commission (External Members)

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Tuesday 8th June 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

I would understand if the right hon. Gentleman were arguing, for example, that a political leader of a council might change the balance of the Commission, but if we are trying to get expertise, they would also be used to running large organisations. He rightly said that the Commission tends to work with a degree of consensus; it is not divided. Many other countries managed to encapsulate that. They appoint people to public bodies in the full and public knowledge that they have been politically active. I still do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman thinks that should be a major debarring factor.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I hope I was making clear, I think it debars from the Commission, where politicians are already appointed. It inevitably does not debar from other public sector appointments, where that may be perfectly reasonable, and where people may be appointed because of their connection to a political party if we are seeking a political balance. As I said, I have particular confidence in the two people we are appointing today. I think they will be first class and make a considerable contribution to the Commission and the work of this House.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 20th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: free trade is one of the great advantages of leaving the European Union, which has always been essentially a protectionist racket and has led to higher prices for many staples of daily life in this country. The Government are a believer in free trade. We have rolled over any number of trade agreements, with the fantastic work done by my right hon Friend the President of the Board of Trade in ensuring that this has happened and in the negotiations with other countries. Free trade is good for both sides, but it is particularly good for the side that reduces tariffs. Why? Because we lower prices to consumers, which means they have more disposable income to use on other things, be it on investment in their country or buying other goods and services. So we grow the overall economy, reducing the tax burden on individuals because tariffs are taxation, and taxation on staples is not necessarily the best way to lead to economic growth, but it also helps producers because producers have to be more competitive, and that means that, globally, they will do better. For economic growth, free trade has always been the way forward, and God bless the late Sir Robert Peel.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I hope the Leader of the House cleared that with the Prime Minister, because on 21 April I asked the Prime Minister to demand that public bodies should “buy British first”, and he responded, “of course”. Clearly, the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), had not got the memo by yesterday, when he did not blame the EU, but started by bleating about World Trade Organisation restrictions. I suppose next it will be little green men from UFOs that Ministers use as their excuse for inaction. Can we have a debate in which Members from all sides can demand that Ministers, civil servants and public bodies buy British goods, food and services first?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since we have left the European Union, we have much greater freedom to buy British first. We do have some international agreements on procurement to ensure that we do things fairly and properly, and that other countries do the same, but it seems to me perfectly reasonable, as there is good and affordable British produce available, that we should decide—where we can, and where it is prudent and affordable—to have a preference for British meat over non-British meat. I do not think that is unreasonable, and I hope the House of Commons will do the same.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 4th February 2021

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is right to say that the pandemic has increased the eternal need to ensure that when it comes to all Government expenditure, but especially restoration and renewal, the taxpayer is only asked to pay for vital works, not gold-plating. I will confess to him that some of the figures I have heard bandied around for the total cost, and some I am seeing requested for budgets at the moment, are eye-watering, and it is hard to believe that that is what is required for the vital works.

The Palace of Westminster must remain the home of our democracy. It is a temple to democracy: that is what our Victorian forebears built it to be. It is one we should be immeasurably proud of and must preserve and use, because we need to carry on our work in this fantastic Palace, not somewhere else. But it has to be said that the “how” should follow the “what” in this regard, not the other way round: the “what” comes after we have worked out “how”, which is why hon. and right hon. Members like my right hon. Friend will have such an important role to play in the coming months in helping to determine the scale of the project—the “what” that is required. We are the ones accountable to constituents, so it is quite right that we will be the Members of Parliament—the Members of this current Parliament—who make the final decisions on how to proceed.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Last month, post Brexit, I asked the House of Commons Commission to give preference to British suppliers. On 14 January it replied:

“The Public Contract Regulations 2015 are UK law and in general they prohibit contracting authorities from specifying the country of manufacture or origin when purchasing goods. This has not changed now that the Brexit transition period has ended.”

But, as the explanatory memorandum at the time on this legislation made clear, this regulation was made to implement an EU directive, so may we have a debate to demand that our public sector backs British industry and British workers, or, better still, could the Leader of the House prevail on his colleagues to change this legislation ASAP?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again I welcome the right hon. Gentleman, who is such a staunch Brexiteer and who has seen the errors of the European ways and wishes the United Kingdom Parliament to make its own laws free of orders, requests, directives or regulations from the European Union. He is right, therefore, to campaign on this issue, because that is what this House is for: to make sure that we make our own laws. It does seem to me that the point the right hon. Gentleman makes is entirely reasonable: that the United Kingdom Parliament ought to be able to have its supplies entirely from the United Kingdom if that is what it wishes to do. I am not in favour of protectionism, but this Parliament is a symbol of the nation, and therefore I think he is on a very good wicket in what he says.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 10th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think some comfort has been brought forward with the most significant building safety reforms in almost 40 years, providing £1.6 billion of taxpayers’ money to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding, making homes safer, sooner. Almost 80% of buildings with dangerous Grenfell-style cladding have had it removed or are in the process of doing so, rising to 97% in the social housing sector. Over 100 buildings have started remediation on-site in 2020 so far, despite the continuing backdrop of the global pandemic—more than in the whole of 2019—and we are clear that works to remove unsafe aluminium composite material cladding must be completed by the end of 2021. I hope that this will provide some reassurance to leaseholders, but I accept that there are others in difficult circumstances, and my hon. Friend is right to raise this issue.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The Leader of the House has just stressed that we are coming out of the EU on 1 January. Of course, that forces us to look at Government purchasing rules after then so that, locally and nationally, Government can properly support British firms, workers and communities. I have been in correspondence on this with the Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew, who has been very helpful. He informs me:

“We are developing a package of proposals to reform the UK’s procurement regulations”,

and he goes on to say:

“We still plan to publish our proposals later this year and bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows”.

This was on 2 December. Can we have a debate so that we can demand that Ministers and especially civil servants get a move on, enable us to behave like every other major European and industrial economy, and back our businesses and our people?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repented than the 99 who never needed to repent in the first place. I am delighted to see the right hon. Gentleman becoming such an ardent Eurosceptic and welcoming the advantages of leaving the European Union, in that we can set our own procurement rules and, if we choose, help local firms and British businesses. That will be a matter for us to decide as a country, and my noble friend, Lord Agnew, has written to the right hon. Gentleman and set out the position pretty clearly.

Independent Expert Panel

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees- Mogg)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That:

(1) in accordance with Standing Order No. 150C (Appointment of Independent Expert Panel Members), the following be appointed as members of the Independent Expert Panel—

(a) Mrs Lisa Ball, Mrs Johanna Higgins, Sir Stephen Irwin and Professor Clare McGlynn for a period of 4 years, and

(b) Monica Daley, Miss Dale Simon, Sir Peter Thornton and Dr Matthew Vickers for a period of 6 years; and

(2) notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (4) Standing Order No. 150A (Independent Expert Panel), Sir Stephen Irwin be the Chair of that Panel.

It is a pleasure to open this debate on the appointment of the independent expert panel, which would provide important support to the work of the independent complaints and grievance scheme. The appointments that we debate today represent a significant next step in our collective efforts to ensure that Parliament has a culture that is respectful to all and where there is no place for bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.

I want to emphasise that this panel is just one step. Although significant progress has been made on this agenda, none of us is under any illusion that to bring about the lasting change needed to our culture will not take painstaking work, tireless communication and myriad reinforcing actions by many over a considerable period.

The steps already undertaken are significant ones. They include, of course, the creation in 2018 of the ICGS itself and I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), and all those who worked with her to generate a consensus and set a way forward for the scheme.

The ICGS is now open to all members of the parliamentary community and, importantly, it has been broadened to include investigation of non-recent allegations and from those who have since left the parliamentary community. As set out in the ICGS’s annual report published last week, over the past year, the pool of investigators has been expanded so that more cases can be processed, including non-recent ones, and there has been the creation of a single helpline service to provide confidential and immediate advice, which includes a speciality independent sexual misconduct advisory service.

Recently, we have also seen the launch of the second of two planned independent reviews of the ICGS to ensure that consideration is given to how what is still a fledgling scheme can be strengthened. May I briefly again take the opportunity to encourage all members of the parliamentary community to participate in that review being undertaken by Alison Stanley. As I mentioned in business questions last week, an online survey seeking views will run until 4 December—it is a very simple survey; even I managed to do it. I ask Members please to take the survey if they can so that the widest range of views are captured and taken into account.

Looking beyond the ICGS, a new Member services team has also been established to provide human resources support to MPs and their staff, and I should add that more than 4,000 people in Parliament have now taken the Valuing Everyone training, which aims to demonstrate how to recognise and understand what harassment and sexual harassment mean in the workplace and how to tackle them.

Turning to the independent expert panel, it is important to note that the appointments that we are discussing today form part of our fulfilment of the key recommendations made by Dame Laura Cox in her 2018 report. Members will remember that Dame Laura made three fundamental recommendations: the first was that Parliament’s existing policies relating to bullying, harassment or sexual harassment should be abandoned; the second was that the ICGS should be accessible to those with complaints involving historical allegations. Both of those recommendations have been met. The final recommendation was that the process for determining complaints of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment brought by House staff against Members of Parliament should be an entirely independent process in which Members of Parliament play no part. This is that independent process.

Under our current arrangements, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has the power to determine cases and impose sanctions up to a certain level of severity. More serious cases, including those where suspension or expulsion might be the resulting sanction, have been for the Standards Committee to determine.

In February this year, the House of Commons Commission considered a number of alternative approaches developed and presented by the staff team. The Commission agreed that the strongest option was that an expert panel, comprising an independent chairman and seven panel members, none of whom would be MPs, would determine ICGS cases, decide on sanctions and hear appeals by either party against the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards’ conclusions.

Dame Laura was consulted on the options considered by the Commission and was among those who supported the approach. Members will also remember that, in June, a motion was passed to establish the independent expert panel. The panel will determine complaints of bullying and harassment or sexual misconduct made under the ICGS. It will do so entirely independently of MPs. In cases where the IEP recommends the most extreme sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion of an MP, the House must approve the recommendation via a motion in this Chamber that will be taken without debate.

I have always been clear that the panel must be of the highest calibre collectively. Its members should provide considerable expertise in relevant fields, and they should do so under the leadership of a chairman of the standing equivalent to that of a High Court judge. I am therefore delighted that we have such a strong set of candidates to consider, and that recommended for the role of chairman is Sir Stephen Irwin, who was Lord Justice of Appeal from 2016 until his retirement last month, and was previously a High Court judge for a decade.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Can the Leader of the House tell us how much the chairman is going to be paid for this job?

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Indeed, I can. Members of the independent expert panel, including the chairman, will be paid monthly in arrears a fee of £350 excluding value added tax for each half day spent by the panel member in the provision of their services. The amount claimed by each member will depend on the number of cases, and their individual contribution. It is expected that the annual report of the panel will include information on its costs. I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman—I think this may be his next question—that panel members will not be part of a pension scheme for their services, but I am happy to take further interventions from him.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

When I looked up the link from the report which referred to the advertisement for the job, it said that these jobs were going to be fixed term and full time, not per diem—if it is £350 for every half day, it is £700 a day as a full-time position—and that panel members would be part of the civil service pension scheme. This is slightly confusing. I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could clarify the situation, because there is a difference between the advertisement and what he has just told the House.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to apply?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) would not have been eligible to apply because Members of Parliament cannot join—unless he decided to take the Chiltern Hundreds, but that would be a great loss to this House.

The fee is £350 per half day. The number of days or half days of work will be dependent on the number of cases, and the roles are not eligible for a civil service pension. Those are the terms under which people have agreed to serve. I do not know about the advertisement. I am afraid that I did not think of applying and therefore did not read the advertisement with the care that the right hon. Gentleman read it.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman would not only be disqualified as a Member of Parliament; he referred to people being qualified, and it seems that all those who got the jobs happen to be lawyers, as though they are the only people in the whole country who are qualified to deal with these issues. I will come back to that in my speech.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that it is popular to be disparaging about lawyers, but it is sometimes unfair. The right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) is a very distinguished lawyer herself, as is, as it happens, the Leader of the Opposition, so the Opposition have plenty of distinguished lawyers on their Benches. This process has to meet the requirements of natural justice. An understanding of the law and the application of law is a protection both for those who bring complaints and for those who are accused, so I am not surprised that lawyers make up a significant number of the applicants.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Again, the right hon. Gentleman seems to run slightly contrary to the advertisement for the positions, which says that panel members should have

“judicial, quasi-judicial, or adjudicating capacity, or bring expertise in a relevant policy area, such as employee or industrial relations or HR disciplinary processes.”

That implies that we would have people from industry, and probably also from the trade unions, who have experience of dealing with these matters practically, rather than exclusively lawyers.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that 134 completed applications were received —no doubt, from a variety of people. Of those applications, the ones that were seen to be the most suitable are those before the House, having been approved by the Commission. I think it is a distinguished panel—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman mutters that it is chumocracy; I do not want to give too much away, but the only member of the panel who claimed a friendship of any kind with any Member of Parliament said that he was on nodding terms with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, so if they are chums, they are not my chums, particularly, but they are very important and good people.

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I say once again that this panel has come from 134 applicants, and the most distinguished and capable have been drawn from it. The panel’s members include Monica Daley, a barrister of 25 years’ standing and former independent legal chair of the police misconduct committee; Professor Clare McGlynn QC, professor of law at the University of Durham—the right hon. Gentleman’s part of the world—with particular expertise in the legal regulation of sexual violence, so there is a good deal of expertise in some of the issues that may come before the panel; Mrs Lisa Ball, who brings two decades of experience in determining cases and complaints in a range of fields, including bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, misconduct and professional standards; and Mrs Johanna Higgins, Northern Ireland commissioner for the Criminal Cases Review Commission and a barrister of 27 years’ standing.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

I am afraid that the Leader of the House is reinforcing our case. It is not about whether any of these individuals are defective. For example, an industrial tribunal panel will rightly include a lawyer as the chairman, as well as a representative of employers and a representative of trade unions—that is the make-up of all industrial tribunal panels. It is about the narrowness of the experience on this expert panel, which is drawn from a very small part of society—134 people. Does he not see that the breadth of society and people who have real-life experience are not reflected on the panel?

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I begin by thanking the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) for her support and the support of the official Opposition? We have worked closely on this matter not just in the Chamber, but in the Commission. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin) for his support and for his very interesting contribution, saying how he had not initially thought it was right to take it away from the Standards Committee, but that, working on the Committee and seeing how difficult it is to judge those with whom we work, he has come to the conclusion that it is the right thing to do. I think that that is a particularly helpful contribution to this afternoon’s debate.

I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady). He wishes to give me powers that I do not have. I may be Lord President of the Council, but that does not mean I have the right of appointment to the Privy Council. I can tell him, however, that Sir Stephen Irwin is a member of the Privy Council as a Lord Justice of Appeal. They are normally sworn of the Privy Council.

In response, briefly, to the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar), I want to answer the question on the advert and pensions. The advert from the recruitment agency did not mention pensions or the job being full time. As I understand it, the cover page of the Commons’ own advert did say that there was a pension, but that the people who applied would not have been misled in any way because they would have had the advert from the recruitment agency.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

I thank the Leader of the House for giving way. I am sure he will forgive me for having looked at the House of Commons’ own documentation to ascertain the position. How does he explain the inconsistency?

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 19th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Paeans of praise should be prepared for our Prime Minister in celebration of his achievement in getting us out of the European Union and delivering on what was promised to the British people and what they voted for, but my hon. Friend asks me to guarantee something based on something that is theoretical, and a guarantee based on something that is theoretical is not really a guarantee, so I cannot give it.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Surely, in reality, the most important issue facing the country and this House is the renewal or otherwise of the lockdown, so I am surprised and slightly concerned that it is not clear when that will be debated. Many MPs on all sides want to move on from risk avoidance to evidence-based risk management. Many sporting and leisure venues have invested in helpful and costly improvements, and whether they are football and rugby clubs, racecourses, betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, airports, shops, gyms, pubs, clubs, restaurants or cafés, they all need some degree of change, help and actual opportunity. Can we have an urgent focused debate and a vote on proper alternatives, rather than the usual all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it approach?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of the things the right hon. Gentleman asks for is not possible, because statutory instruments are introduced on the basis of take it or leave it. The law has to be clear, and it has never been possible to amend statutory instruments. On his broader point, I am glad to say we have the most freedom-loving Prime Minister that we could have. In at least 100 years, there has been no other Prime Minister who is more freedom loving, and therefore the desire to get back to ordinary ways of living is very strong, assuming that it can be done in a way that is safe for the nation at large. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have made a commitment that any matters of national significance will be brought before this House before they are introduced. I cannot give the timings on that, because the decisions have not been made, but the basic choice of the House is that any new statutory instruments will come before this House for a vote if they are of national significance.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 12th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know this is a matter of significant concern to my hon. Friend. The Government are aware of the concerns that some second homes that are also available for letting are listed by the Valuation Office Agency as non-domestic properties and therefore liable for business rates rather than council tax. Depending on their rateable value, many of these properties qualify for small business rate relief. The Government have consulted on possible measures to strengthen the criteria that need to be satisfied for holiday properties to be assessed for business rates, and the Government’s full response will be set out in due course.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Yesterday in the covid-19 debate, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), revealed:

“When the pandemic started, we produced 1% of our PPE needs in the UK. By December, we will be providing 70%”.—[Official Report, 11 November 2020; Vol. 683, c. 1022.]

She seemed to regard that as cause for self-congratulation. However, although it is a tribute to British industry and British workers, it reveals shocking complacency in allowing the situation to develop, which has meant lost resilience, lost industry and lost jobs—and that is the case across public spending. Can we have a debate so that we can demand that the Government put Britain first and prioritise buying to support British jobs, and send a clear message to any bureaucrat who wants to stand in the way of change: “Get on board or get on your bike”?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman must be absolutely delighted, therefore, that we have left the European Union and will end the transition period on 31 December, because once we are out of the European Union we will be able to develop our own procurement policies. We will not be bound by EU red tape. We will be free to adopt either what he suggests or not. It will be liberty restored and a day of legend and song.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong & Ping Pong: House of Commons
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 - Government Bill Page View all Parliamentary Constituencies Debates Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think it is of fundamental importance; the Lord Chancellor is there to say to Ministers that they should not criticise judges. That is one of his roles, to ensure that proper application of the separation of powers. The current Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend, carries out his job with absolute aplomb, but he is not alone in this; Labour Lord Chancellors have done exactly the same.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Unfortunately, now that the Lord Chancellor is, rightly or wrongly, in the House of Commons, can they not be subjected to political pressures? Indeed, has a previous Lord Chancellor not been expelled from his party and therefore, in effect, expelled from Parliament?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Lord Chancellor being in the House of Commons is something that happened earlier in our history, too. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that Thomas More was Lord Chancellor in the House of Commons, so it is hardly unprecedented for this to happen, although there may be quibbles about the constitutional reforms that took place under the Government headed by Tony Blair. I think that the ability of the Lord Chancellor to be the voice of judicial independence and of the rule of law in the highest councils of government is one of fundamental constitutional importance.

Where I draw different conclusions from those of the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman is that I think the role should be enhanced, protected and recognised as being one of exceptionality and above the cut and thrust of day-to-day party politics. I would mention distinguished Lord Chancellors from other parties here. Jack Straw and Lord Irvine of Lairg were two particularly distinguished Lord Chancellors, as were Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Lord Hailsham. They were great figures who all recognised that they had a political affiliation but that their solemn responsibility required them to rise above the fray. We should defend this as something precious about our constitution.

The gravity of the responsibility placed upon their shoulders means I have no doubt that future Lord Chancellors, one of whom could one day come from the Liberal Democrats or the Scottish nationalists—[Interruption.] The Scottish National party may be pushing it a bit, and one from the Lib Dems is not much more likely, but the principle is that the gravity of the responsibilities placed upon their shoulders means that Lord Chancellors will continue to uphold the highest traditions and respect for the judiciary. The notion that they would seek to undermine or compromise this through appointments to the commission is anathema to us all and would certainly be unconscionable to all past and present keepers of the Queen’s conscience—one of the roles of the Lord High Chancellor.

The amendment also proposes that there should be a single, non-renewable term for boundary commissioners as a way to avoid any potential for an appointee’s actions to be influenced by their desire for re-appointment. If an individual were to serve only one term, it would need to be for 10 years to align with the current cycle of 10-year reviews—or eight years if the House agrees to overturn their lordships’ change to 10 years—which is a long term of office. We are not aware of any similar examples for non-executive style roles such as this. It could be off-putting to some worthy candidates from an inevitably not limitless pool of applicants for such positions. It may also be beneficial to retain the experience of a commissioner after their initial term, which is a principle that applies across public appointments. Not prescribing a non-renewable term in law would retain flexibility in the event that a commissioner did or did not wish to serve longer than the current norm of a four or five-year term.

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend makes a fair point. We all recognise that the numbers will diverge from the moment the commission finishes its work as people move around the country. Therefore, the tolerance of 5% either way—10% in total—gets the balance about right in the knowledge that, by the time of an election, it will inevitably have changed regardless A 15% tolerance range has been thoroughly debated in both Houses and twice rejected by this one—in Committee and on Report—so the settled view of the elected Chamber, to which, after all, the Bill relates most directly, should prevail. I therefore urge the House to disagree with the amendment.

As I turn to amendment 8, I will first pay tribute to Lord Shutt of Greetland, who tabled the amendment in the other place and sadly died recently. Lord Shutt was a stalwart campaigner and advocate on electoral issues, as reflected in his recent excellent chairmanship of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 Committee. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say he will be much missed and offer my condolences to his family on behalf of the House. The amendment would require the Government to make proposals for improving the completeness of electoral registers for the purposes of boundary reviews. It suggests two possible ways in which the issuing of national insurance numbers could trigger 16 and 17-year-olds being included on the registers. I will look first at the completeness of the registers and then discuss how the amendment proposes to register 16 and 17-year-olds. It is important to note that recent elections have been run on the largest ever electoral registers, despite the removal of 1 million ghost entries from the register when the transition from household registration to individual registration was completed in December 2015. People who want and are eligible to register to vote find it easy to do so.

The Government believe that every eligible elector who wants to be included should be on the electoral register, but that it should be up to each individual to decide whether to engage with the democratic process. The Government seek to make registration as easy as possible and to work with many others to reduce any barriers to registration. For example, we introduced online registration. As a result, it became simpler and faster to register to vote; it now takes as little as five minutes to register. Similarly, we are focused on ensuring that electoral registration officers—with whom the statutory responsibility for maintaining complete and accurate registers lies—have the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. For example, the Government have made many resources to promote democratic engagement and voter registration freely available on gov.uk. Furthermore, our changes to the annual canvass of all residential properties in Great Britain will improve its overall efficiency considerably. The data-matching element of the initiative allows electoral registration officers to focus their efforts on hard-to-reach groups. This is the first year of the reformed canvass, and anecdotal reports so far suggest that administrators have found the new processes much less bureaucratic.

The amendment makes two suggestions on what the Government may include in the proposals they would be required to lay before Parliament to improve the completeness of the registers. The first would see a form of automatic registration introduced for attainers—16 and 17-year-olds who can register to vote in preparation for attaining voting age—and their inclusion in the electorate data used in boundary reviews. We are opposed to automatic registration for attainers or any other group, in both principle and practice, as we believe that registering to vote and voting are civic duties. People should not have these duties done for them or be compelled to do them. That was one reason why we introduced individual electoral registration in 2014. The evidence shows that an individual system drives up registration figures. After individual registration was launched, the registers for the 2017 and 2019 general elections were the largest ever. Electoral registration has worked.

There are a number of practical concerns about automatic registration. Among others, it is almost certain that an automatic registration system would lead to a single, centralised database of electors. We are opposed to this on the grounds of the significant security and privacy implications of holding that much personal data in one place, as well as the significant cost that such a system would impose.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

But surely the electoral registers are held by the local electoral registration officers and the local councils, and if they are provided with that information, they can automatically register people. That is what is in the amendment. A virtual national database would be a good idea, but it is not inherent in the proposition. It would mean that we did not have to spend a lot of money chasing those people up. Will the Minister explain why he thinks it desirable that we have such low registration rates of youngsters when we should surely want to engage them in the democratic process at an early stage?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I point out that we have record levels of registration. The right hon. Gentleman undermines his own argument, because as soon as the Government have all that information, they have it. If they send it out to electoral registration officers, that does not mean that they have lost, forgotten or abandoned it; it might do under a Labour Government, but it would not under a Conservative Government. I seem to remember some Inland Revenue figures were lost under the last Labour Government, but that is all ancient history and a long time ago. If the Government have that information, they have it; if has not been forgotten or wiped from the central mind just because they have sent it out to local officers. The risk of having a large, centralised system is that it would be expensive, and there would be risks in terms of security and privacy implications.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

National insurance already has a national database—that is inherent to that system. That information would not be distributed to every local authority; information would be distributed on those who are resident within the postcodes in the local authority. What the Leader of the House is saying makes no sense at all. There is already a national database of national insurance numbers; logically, that has nothing whatsoever to do with telling local councils who is in their particular area so that they can chase them up.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is not actually accurate. The national insurance database does not consist purely of voters; it consists of people who have national insurance numbers because they are eligible for tax in this country, and they may be foreign nationals. That is another problem: we would be trying to match together a database that is held for an entirely different purpose. It would have to be scrubbed to turn it into an electoral database, at which point we would have an electoral database held centrally, which is exactly the problem we are trying to avoid. I think we are on strong ground on this one.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who, every single week, manages to come up with another example of absolute incompetence by Lib Dem councils. Perhaps he should ask the Backbench Business Committee for a more general debate on why the Lib Dems cannot run anything and why it would be better voting Conservative.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Across the country, the hospitality, sports and leisure industries and their millions of workers are facing closures and restrictions, despite very little evidence being provided that they will have any significant impact on the pandemic—especially the 10 pm shutdown. May we have a specific debate, in which the Government can finally provide the basis for such draconian actions and we, the industry and the public can debate them and be clear whether the benefits really justify the costs of these measures? Frankly, they seem to be driven more by the need to be seen to be doing something than by any evidence.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is always difficult, when a debate has already been provided, when one is then criticised for not providing quite specific enough a debate. In a broad debate, any range of subjects can be raised relating to the coronavirus crisis. There is a debate later today, and one on the Monday when we get back, when these points can be raised. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has made regular statements to the House, where he can be questioned on these issues. Therefore, I think parliamentary time has been provided, while recognising the real difficulty that people in the leisure and hospitality sectors find themselves in. It is very tough for them, but the Chancellor is making a statement later, and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will want to listen to that with care.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 9th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My  hon. Friend is so right to raise this point. The evil of modern-day slavery should not be underestimated. We were the first country to publish a Government statement on modern slavery setting out the steps we have taken to identify and prevent modern slavery in supply chains, and that was one of the great achievements of the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). The Home Office has launched a new single competent authority to handle cases of modern slavery and a new digital system, making it easier for those on the frontline to refer victims for support, and that has allowed us to identify more victims than ever before.

Last year, over 10,000 potential victims were referred—52% higher than 2018—and it is worrying in itself that there should be such a high number. A high number is an indication that we are introducing policies that help, but it cannot be an indication of success, because if there is any modern-day slavery, that is in and of itself not a success. Some 1,600 police operations are ongoing, which is not far off tenfold the number only four years ago, but we have to go further. Modern-day slavery is an evil, and my hon. Friend is right to highlight it.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I realise that the Chancellor had a lot on his plate yesterday, but unfortunately there seemed to be no announcements regarding the green potential of hydrogen. The UK is well placed to leap forwards both in hydrogen production, especially from wind farms, but also vehicle manufacture, notably buses from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and construction vehicles and trucks. May we have an early debate to stimulate not just discussion, but some urgent decisions?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thanks to the Chancellor’s innovative scheme, we will all have a lot on our plate on some days in August—more on our plate than we might have been anticipating. As regards hydrogen, the right hon. Gentleman rightly raises an important point about an environmentally friendly source of energy. Yesterday’s statement was 20 minutes long and inevitably could not cover everything. As I said, there may possibly be a debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming Adjournment, which will be an opportunity to raise the subject, but the right hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian and knows better than I do how to get things raised in this House.

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 18th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the work of the Chancellor, who has managed an unprecedented crisis with characteristic ableness, crafting a considered and suitably bold approach. Our priority has been to support people, families and businesses through this crisis, but there will be more steps to be taken, and the wisdom of this House will be invaluable in helping the Government to shape policy for the future. As I announced earlier, there will be a debate next Thursday 25 June that will allow the economic circumstances around the pandemic to be discussed in broad terms, and I am sure that Ministers will pay careful attention to that debate.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

May I first report that yesterday I spoke to Pat Duffy, who not only was in very good spirits and fine form, but was polishing off his first glass of champagne to celebrate his 100th birthday? Yesterday, I also raised with the Equalities Minister the ongoing scandal of the operation of the disclosure and barring service—the DBS. This can blight people’s lives, often for minor crimes or even cautions in their youth, for decades. It prevents people from turning their lives around and is highly discriminatory. Members from both sides of Parliament and across the political spectrum recognise this injustice, as indeed did the Equalities Minister yesterday. The blockage seems to be the dead hand of the Home Office, so will the Leader of the House mobilise his office to knock departmental heads together, not for another study, inquiry or commission, but for rapid change, action and then a statement to the House?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point: with the DBS system, it is important to recognise that people can reform and that people ought to be given, in a fair society, a second chance, and that is something we as politicians should be very committed to. I will use my office in whatever way I can to try to encourage other Ministers to come to a conclusion on this and to look at it in the serious way that he suggests, though I may be a bit cautious about knocking heads together, because I am not sure that meets the requirements of social distancing.

Liaison (Membership)

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That –

(1) With effect for the current Parliament, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 121 (Nomination of select committees), the Members elected by the House or otherwise chosen to be chairs of each of the select committees listed in paragraph (2) shall be a member of the Liaison Committee;

(2) The committees to which paragraph (1) applies are:

Administration;

Backbench Business;

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy;

Defence;

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport;

Education;

Environmental Audit;

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs;

European Scrutiny;

European Statutory Instruments;

Finance;

Foreign Affairs;

Future Relationship with the European Union;

Health and Social Care;

Home Affairs;

Housing, Communities and Local Government;

Joint Committee on Human Rights (the chair being a Member of this House);

International Development;

International Trade;

Justice;

Northern Ireland Affairs;

Petitions;

Procedure;

Privileges (the chair not being the chair of the Committee on Standards);

Public Accounts;

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs;

Regulatory Reform;

Science and Technology;

Scottish Affairs;

Selection;

Standards;

Statutory Instruments;

Transport;

Treasury;

Welsh Affairs;

Women and Equalities, and

Work and Pensions;

(3) Sir Bernard Jenkin shall also be a member, and the chair, of the Liaison Committee.

I thought you were going to say, “Without hesitation, deviation or repetition,” in honour of the late and much- lamented Nicholas Parsons, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the whole House will welcome this debate. There has been an unfortunate delay in setting up the Liaison Committee, a situation that I seek to resolve so that the Committee can start its work this Session.

The House will be aware that this motion was objected to, and that we have since needed to delay bringing the motion back until such time as we could consider it properly, including having the ability to divide on the matter if needed. This motion establishes the Liaison Committee, a long-standing Committee of this House. The Committee brings together the Chairmen of Select Committees to an important forum, which takes evidence from the Prime Minister on matters of public policy and supports the House to scrutinise legislation and other policy proposals. The Government look forward to continuing their constructive working relationship with the Committee, particularly on issues such as pre-legislative scrutiny of Government Bills.

The motion specifies the membership of the Liaison Committee, and that my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin) should chair the Committee. As he is an experienced and respected former Select Committee Chairman, I would hope that he carries the support of the whole House to take on this role. It is my opinion that my hon. Friend has significant relevant experience in this area, in view of his previous experience chairing the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee and his long career as a Member of this House. Since his election in 1992, he has never viewed himself as a vassal of the Whips, and I am sure that Ministers who appeared before my hon. Friend in his previous role as a Committee Chairman can attest to his independence and thoroughness in robustly holding the Government to account.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Why not have an election for the job?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are having an election; there may be a Division—

Business of the House

Debate between John Spellar and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Tuesday 21st April 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I understand it, it is only available if second homes are genuinely used for businesses; if they are used for business purposes, the grant is available. That is fair and reasonable as long as they are being used for business purposes.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

May I go back to a subject that I raised with the Leader of the House in my earlier contribution about those large number of constituents who are still stranded in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh? Many of them are elderly. The temperature there is rising enormously and conditions are becoming unbearable. There has been an improvement in the number of flights, but we are still well behind many other countries, particularly Germany. We need urgent additional flights to get these people home.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have made enormous efforts to bring people back. The numbers involved are very large: 200,000 people have come back from Spain; 13,000 from Egypt; 6,000 from Pakistan; and 1,000 from New Zealand. It has been a big effort by the Government, and particularly difficult when the number of aeroplanes flying has been reduced. May I suggest that the right hon Gentleman raises this matter with the Foreign Secretary, the First Secretary of State, when he is answering Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow?