Debates between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 5th Jul 2022
Tue 11th Jan 2022

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 21st November 2023

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the judiciary must not make incendiary comments about Israel? At Walsall magistrates court, a district judge recently acquitted defendants who had vandalised a factory, believing it to be supplying Israel, and is reported to have told them their action was

“proportionate in comparison to the crimes against humanity which they were acting to stop.”

Does he agree that judges are supposed to uphold the law, not encourage its breach? This brings our legal system into ill-repute, so will he take this from me as a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. We are not meant to criticise the courts, and I know that such a learned Gentleman will know better; I am sure we can avoid any criticism.

Coronation: Policing of Protests

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 9th May 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that, as a matter of law, the police are entirely within their rights to arrest individuals in order to prevent a crime? That happens somewhere in the country pretty much every day. Obviously, the police do not wait until a crime is committed—until the active offence is committed—before acting. If they know from intelligence received that an armed robbery was about to take place, they do not have to wait until it is taking place before acting, and the same applies here. Does the Minister agree that the police did an excellent job in very difficult circumstances? This is a Government who support the police; we will leave the Opposition parties to support those who do not follow the law.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not at the Bar now. He must ask shorter questions.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
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Justice delayed is justice denied, and that is as accurate today as it ever was. We have to move at pace, while getting it right, and collating the evidence is important. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything we can to support the Ukrainians in every conceivable way, including in this area.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson, Angela Crawley.

Angela Crawley Portrait Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East) (SNP)
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I welcome the Attorney General back to his place; he is providing much needed continuity amidst the chaos. Bombings of civilians, conducting executions, torturing war prisoners and sexual violence—independent investigators have concluded that Russia has committed all those crimes. I have heard what the Government intend to do, but what specific steps will they take now and in the future to ensure that perpetrators face the consequences of their actions in an international court?

Contaminated Blood Scandal: Interim Payments for Victims

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(1 year, 9 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

Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I note that she does not appear to be seeking the full debate that I recently wrote to her in support of, and I would commend my recent letter to her, wherein I suggested that perhaps a full debate would be in order when the House resumes, if the Leader of the House will agree. I frequently pay tribute to her, as she knows, for her long-standing work on this issue, and I ask her to accept from me that other people are also working hard on it, including my officials and officials from across Whitehall. She has been a resolute advocate for her constituent—also through her all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood—and I am seeking also to support the wider community of people who have been affected by this appalling tragedy.

The specific question that the right hon. Lady raises today concerns the compensation framework study. This was produced by Sir Robert Francis QC and was commissioned by my predecessor in her then capacity as sponsor Minister for the infected blood inquiry. I can tell the House that it was delivered to me as the current sponsor Minister for the infected blood inquiry only in March. Sir Robert had been asked to give independent advice about the design of a workable and fair framework for compensation for victims of infected blood that could be ready to implement upon the conclusion of the inquiry, should its findings and recommendations require it.

The Government published Sir Robert’s study some six weeks ago on 7 June. Sir Robert then gave evidence about his work to the inquiry last week, on 11 and 12 July. His evidence was quite detailed, quite lengthy, quite technical and forensic. As hon. Members will appreciate, Sir Robert’s study is a comprehensive and detailed one. It reflects the contributions of many victims and their recognised legal representatives, and of the campaign groups who have been representing the infected and affected communities so well. In total, Sir Robert makes no fewer than 19 recommendations that span the full spectrum of considerations for the creation, status and delivery of a framework, including non-financial compensation, for victims—both individuals who were infected by contaminated blood or blood products and those whose lives were affected after their loved ones or family members received infected blood or infected blood products.

The Government are grateful to Sir Robert for his thorough examination of these complex questions and the detailed submissions, and I wish to assure all those who have taken part that the Government are focused on making a prompt response. One of Sir Robert’s recommendations, and the focus of the right hon. Lady’s question today, is that the Government should consider making interim compensation payments to infected blood support scheme beneficiaries before a compensation scheme is established, in the interest of speeding up justice and giving some level of assurance and security to those who may not live to see the end of the inquiry. My colleagues and I are particularly and keenly aware of this reality. After all, it was this Conservative Government under my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May)—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. This is a very important debate but I do not think that people have advised the Minister on this and he is way over time. I do not know who has written his speech for him, but there are lots of people wanting to get in and a lot of business ahead. I presume he is nearly at the end.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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Yes, Mr Speaker, just two paragraphs left. I apologise if I have run over.

I was saying that my colleagues and I are keenly aware of this reality. After all, it was this Conservative Government under my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead that launched the inquiry in the first place and it was this Government under the current Prime Minister that commissioned the compensation framework study last year.

To conclude, I can confirm to the right hon. Lady and the House that officials across Government are making haste to address this as quickly and thoroughly as possible. However, responsible government requires proper and careful consideration of how complex and important schemes can and should work, and it will take a little more time for the work to be completed.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Can I just say that we need to advise Ministers of how much time they have? When people are putting speeches together, can they please try to work within the allocated time, because all these Members here have great interest in this issue and need to get in.

Functioning of Government

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
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It was an enormous honour to serve as a Minister in the Home Office until yesterday, tackling violence against women and girls. I know that is a cause that all Members of this House care deeply about. While we are discussing these matters, victims of rape, sexual assault, stalking and spiking continue to deserve justice and they will continue to be victims of crime. Will my right hon. Friend give his continued support to the vital work of Operation Soteria and the rape review. Will he join me in putting on record my thanks to Detective Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, Chief Constable Sarah Crew, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe and many other serving senior police officers who I know will capably continue to drive forward this work? Will he also thank the civil servants in the Home Office who I know will continue to do this essential work?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I understand it is good to get that on the record but there are a lot of other people I have got to try and get in.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I will do as my hon. Friend says. I commend her for her championing of this very important area. The rape review and the work thereof should of course continue.

--- Later in debate ---
Naz Shah Portrait Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab)
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I am looking at many Tory MPs in the Lobby and everywhere using the word “sadness”, but each and every one of them upheld the Prime Minister and let him carry on. He should have resigned when partygate happened, when Durhamgate happened, when his ethics adviser resigned—he should have resigned a long time ago. Each and every one of them kept him here and now they are trying to take the moral high ground when he is finally on his way out. I will not feel sorry for them. Mr Speaker, how can the Opposition hold Ministers to account when there is not a governing Government?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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It is not for me to answer.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The people who put the Prime Minister in place are the 14 million people who voted for the Conservative party at the general election.

Standards in Public Life

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 9 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

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The matter of what happened with regard to the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) is now under investigation. It is possible that a police investigation may—may—follow, so it is clear that the sub judice rule should apply to individual cases, in the interests of justice for everyone concerned, both those accused and potential victims. The sub judice rule should apply very much to these proceedings.

With regard to the appointment to the Whips Office in February that the right hon. Lady mentioned, appointments in Government are subject, of course, to advice on matters of propriety—they are not subject to veto, but they are subject to advice. In addition, the usual reshuffle procedures were followed by the Government. I ask the House to accept that, bearing in mind that the Member in question had been reappointed to Government by a previous Prime Minister in 2018 and appointed in 2019 as a Foreign Office Minister, and that then, crucially, he was appointed for a third time in February, I doubt whether anyone with knowledge of those facts could say that this Prime Minister should have acted otherwise than he did.

It is the morally fair thing to do, in any case, to assess the situation based on evidence and not unsubstantiated rumour. It is incumbent on all of us in this House, as it is in society generally, to act fairly. If there is no evidence at the time—if there is no live complaint, no ongoing investigation—surely it is not unreasonable to consider making an appointment.

In the limited time available, I have made some initial inquiries. This is subject to further assessment, but my understanding is as follows: in October 2019, officials raised concerns with the then permanent secretary about the Member in question. The permanent secretary commissioned work to establish facts, and that work was undertaken on his behalf by the Cabinet Office. That exercise reported in due course to the permanent secretary, who had agreed its terms. It established that although the Minister meant no harm, what had occurred caused a high level of discomfort. [Interruption.] That is what the exercise established. The Minister apologised, and those who raised the concern accepted the resolution. The Prime Minister was made aware of the issue in late 2019; he was told that the permanent secretary had taken the necessary action, so no issue arose about the Minister remaining a Minister.

Last week, when fresh allegations arose, the Prime Minister did not immediately recall the conversation in late 2019 about this incident. As soon as he was reminded, the No. 10 press office corrected its public lines. The position is quite clear. Further inquiries will be made, but the position is that the Prime Minister acted with probity at all times. It is not appropriate, whether in private life or in public life, to act on unsubstantiated rumour.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, William Wragg.

William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. My right hon. and learned Friend mentions the sophisticated and robust systems for upholding standards in public life, but those systems are, on the whole, irrelevant if the participants have no regard to them. The Government and, I suggest, my right hon. and hon. Friends sat on the Front Bench—I notice there is a preponderance of Government Whips there, rather than other Ministers—should consider what they are being asked to say in public, which changes seemingly by the hour. I ask them to consider the common sense of decency that I know the vast majority of them have, and to ask themselves if they can any longer tolerate being part of a Government who, for better or worse, are widely regarded as having lost their sense of direction. It is for them to consider their position. This is not a question of systems; it is a question of political judgment, and that political judgment cannot be delegated.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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My hon. Friend is quite wrong. The Government know their direction, and that is to serve the British people by dealing with the issues that matter to them, including the cost of living, the crisis in Ukraine and the pandemic, which this Prime Minister and this Government have dealt with in an exemplary fashion.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to SNP spokesperson, Brendan O’Hara.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
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Here we are again, Mr Speaker. Once again, the Minister for defending the indefensible is sent out to defend his boss, but even he must realise the frequency with which we reconvene in this place to question the veracity of the Prime Minister’s version of events; it is like being on a merry-go-round that gets faster and faster. Today, it is the turn of Lord McDonald, the former senior civil servant at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, to call out the Prime Minister’s claim that he was unaware of any specific allegations against the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) when he appointed him Deputy Chief Whip. In his letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Lord McDonald is unequivocal in saying that three years ago, in 2019, the Prime Minister

“was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.”

Lord McDonald’s letter absolutely demolishes the Prime Minister’s claims that he did not know and, once again, raises serious concerns and questions about whether he has broken the ministerial code. How much longer will we have to endure this seemingly endless merry-go-round? Will the Secretary of State now commit to holding a full and transparent investigation into this matter, and perhaps finally allow us and the people of the United Kingdom to get off this appalling merry-go-round?

Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests Resignation

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 16th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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Let me start by thanking Lord Geidt for his work as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests and, indeed, for his years of public service before he took up that role. I hold him in the highest regard. He has been honoured multiple times and is, of course, an example of excellence and service in public life. I thank all Members for their work in respect of this matter, but I think all Members of this House will recognise that Lord Geidt has demonstrated diligence and thoughtfulness in the way he has discharged his role over the past year. We have benefited hugely from his service.

The Prime Minister will be issuing a letter in relation to Lord Geidt’s announcement. Both Lord Geidt’s letter and the Prime Minister’s reply will be deposited in the House shortly—as soon as my office has those letters, Mr Speaker, they will be placed in the Library. The Government are of course particularly disappointed that Lord Geidt has taken this decision, because only very recently—as the House knows from the debate last week—significant changes were made to the role and status of Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. As I set out to the House last week, the changes represent the most substantial strengthening of the role, office and remit of independent adviser since the post was created in 2006.

Let me set out briefly the reforms to the role that the Prime Minister has introduced. First, the independent adviser has a new ability, which Lord Geidt and his predecessors did not previously have, to initiate investigations in relation to allegations where there has been a breach of the “Ministerial Code”. This is a significant change. Previously, as the House knows, as an adviser, he and his predecessors were not permitted to do this. The adviser will still need the consent of the Prime Minister of the day to start an investigation, but, as I made it very clear last week, this consent will normally be given.

The “Ministerial Code” now includes new detail on proportionate sanctions for a breach of the code. Previously, there was no proportionality in those sanctions, and even the smallest of technical breaches by a Minister in place might have resulted in an enforced resignation. Now there is a proportionate range of options, and that was exactly as recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

In future, the independent adviser will be consulted about the revisions to the code, as recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The “Ministerial Code” now includes more specific references to the role of the independent adviser and more specific references to the duty on Ministers to provide the independent adviser with all information reasonably necessary for the discharge of the role.

In conclusion, as Lord Geidt himself has made clear, the new arrangements are workable, and he noted the increased transparency that they bring. The Government will of course now move to make new arrangements and we look forward to working within the strengthened system that I have described.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I say to the Minister, for whom I have the greatest respect, that he knows that his answer should have been three minutes. I am sure that the team here could have managed to get that speech down to three minutes. I say to Members on both sides of the House, please, do not take advantage, as there is a lot of other business to follow.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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When the Minister is ready.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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indicated assent.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Well, you need to come to the Dispatch Box. It might be easier if you stand up.

--- Later in debate ---
Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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Let me briefly answer the hon. Lady. I cannot speak to other investigations that may or may not have been in progress, but we will find about them in due course. That speaks for itself. As for other sensitive matters, it is obviously not appropriate to dwell on those. What is clear though is that the letters will speak for themselves. I think the hon. Lady will wish to wait for those.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, William Wragg.

William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
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I will channel my rare inner Lady Bracknell and say that for the Prime Minister to lose one adviser on Ministers’ interests may be regarded as misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness—I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will take that in the spirit it is meant. I thank Lord Geidt for appearing before our Committee on Tuesday, where I think he did his best—with what he would work with, I think was one thing he said, but he did his best none the less. I am very sad that he felt the need to resign, and I look forward to reading his letter and the reply from the Prime Minister. Can the Minister give the House some reassurance on this particular point? There was a five-month vacancy in the role upon the resignation of the previous independent adviser. How much more quickly will that be filled this time?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with me that it is important to ensure that whoever holds that role is not under constant political pressure to attack the Prime Minister for party political reasons and that, if they do not do so, they are not accused of being a lackey or a patsy. That is not something our independent advisers on Ministers’ interests deserve. We want the best public servants in our public life. We have had one in Lord Geidt, and we will work further in due course, but I know my hon. Friend will agree that it is in the public interest that party politics is not allowed to put pressure where it does not belong.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to SNP spokesperson Brendan O’Hara.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
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Another day, another scandal, another humiliation for the Prime Minister as another sleaze adviser quits. Let us not forget that when Lord Geidt took this job on 16 months ago he was the personal appointment of the Prime Minister, and we were assured that his credentials were absolutely impeccable. Lord Geidt said that if he were to resign it would be a last resort, and that he would use that resignation to send a critical signal into the public domain. We need to know what critical signal he was sending out last night. As yet, we do not have details of his resignation letter. We could speculate—could it be lawbreaking? PPE contracts? Breach of international law? I am pleased that the Minister is publishing the correspondence in full, but will he define “shortly”, as opposed to immediately, and will he confirm that all the correspondence will be published in full when it is published?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 9th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I recognise the importance of the correspondence for those constituents who write in. It might be instructive to know that Departments have continued to receive a significantly higher volume of correspondence in 2021, mainly due to the pandemic, and that has had an impact on resource and timeliness of responses. During 2021, most Departments continued to receive a significantly higher volume of correspondence. The Department for Transport was able to answer 92% of 13,363 letters, the Ministry of Defence 88% of 3,773 letters, and the Department for International Trade 84% of 2,182 letters, within 20 days.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Can I gently say that I and the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), have been struggling to ensure that Members’ letters, from all sides, are answered? We should not try to defend the indefensible. I will be honest: Members need letters on behalf of their constituents to be answered as quickly as possible and, unfortunately, I am getting all the complaints. So I just want to add that to the burden to take away.

I call James Grundy. Not here.

Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Appointment

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 7th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Michael Ellis—you’re welcome.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

Before I begin, I am glad to have this opportunity to offer my congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on reaching the 70th anniversary of her accession. She is a hero to me and millions of others, and I know that the House will join me in wishing her many more years.

In a statement to this House last week, the Prime Minister pledged to make changes in the way Downing Street and the Cabinet Office are managed, so that we can get on with the job that this Government were elected to do, and that is what the Prime Minister is in the course of doing. As the Prime Minister has said, we need to continue our recovery from the pandemic. We need to help hundreds of thousands more people into work. We need to deliver on our ambitious agenda to level up the entire country, improving people’s opportunities regardless of where they are from.

The changes that the Prime Minister made to his senior team over the weekend will bring renewed discipline and focus to his programme of priorities and deliver them faster for the people of the United Kingdom. In his statement to the House last week, the Prime Minister accepted in full the general findings of the Cabinet Office’s second permanent secretary, Sue Gray, in her investigation into alleged gatherings on Government premises during covid restrictions. The Prime Minister offered a sincere apology and also accepted Sue Gray’s recommendation that

“we must learn from these events and act now.”—[Official Report, 31 January 2022; Vol. 708, c. 23.]

In response, as the House will be aware, the Prime Minister has asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to provide political leadership within No. 10 as his chief of staff. As the Government have set out, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be in charge of further integrating the new Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office to make operations at the heart of Government more efficient and effective, and ensuring that the Government agenda is better aligned with the Cabinet and Back Benchers. He will be working very closely with the Cabinet Secretary on the new structure. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will also work directly with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that levelling up is a priority for all Departments and is delivered at a rapid pace that brings about tangible improvements in the day-to-day lives of the people of this country.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I would like to make it clear to the House that, in undertaking this role, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been given additional responsibilities. He remains a member of the Cabinet and is not a special adviser. The Prime Minister is expanding on the already cross-cutting role of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and giving the chief of staff enhanced, ministerial authority to promote levelling up while also playing a senior co-ordinating role in No. 10 under the direction of the Prime Minister.

There are wider benefits to this new approach. It will significantly strengthen Cabinet Government, meaning an enhanced role for both Ministers and Parliament itself. This is a chief of staff who will himself answer to the electorate and who therefore has the democratic authority to direct civil servants and special advisers as a Minister of the Crown, something an unelected adviser cannot do.

Finally, the Government set out that there would continue to be further appointments over the coming days, with a particular focus—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I am not sure whether the Minister is aware that this is a UQ not a statement. Only three minutes is allowed for the Minister; you are now on four, so I am sure that you are coming to the end.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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Thank you, Mr Speaker—I was just on my last sentence. I was saying that the Government set out that there would continue to be further appointments over the coming days, with a particular focus on improving engagement and liaison with Parliament. Full ministerial responsibilities will be announced in due course.

Tackling Fraud and Preventing Government Waste

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 1st February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I am reluctant to make a point of order in a debate, but it is important to reflect on what the Paymaster General has just said and he may wish to correct the impression that he gave. Those loans are 10-year loans, so it cannot be the case that 80% of them have been repaid at this point. He may want to look again at his notes and perhaps correct the impression he gave.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think that is more a point of clarification than a point of order, but it is now on the record.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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It is not worth answering that point, Mr Speaker.

As I said, we have given the Insolvency Service and Companies House new powers to prevent rogue company directors from escaping liability for their bounce back loans. So far, that has been used in respect of almost 62,000 companies holding loans worth £2.1 billion. We are giving the Insolvency Service new powers to disqualify rogue company directors and we have already introduced regulations that allow for greater scrutiny of pre-pack administrations.

Crucially, newspaper reports that the Treasury has written off £4.3 billion in fraudulent covid support payments are simply not true. The £4.3 billion is not a figure produced or recognised by HMRC. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, we are not—I repeat, not—ignoring money relating to fraud in our covid support measures and we are definitely not writing it off. We were and remain determined to crack down on fraud wherever it arises. That is why, for instance, we invested more than £100 million in a taxpayer protection taskforce. At the March Budget last year, we created a taskforce of more than 1,200 HMRC staff to combat fraud in our coronavirus loan schemes. To hear the Opposition, they would deny the existence of those 1,200 staff, who are busy working away to combat fraud. The taskforce is expected to recover up to £1 billion from fraudulent or incorrect payments.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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Can my hon. Friend take us back to the points that Lord Agnew made and clarify whether I have it correct? In putting out much-needed money, the Government relied on intermediaries, and therefore much of it went through the banking system. I think I heard Lord Agnew say in the other place that many of the issues related to two banks out of the seven. It looks to me that a lot of the concerns raised by Opposition Members—validly—relate to processes within some of the banks. Can my hon. Friend clarify whether I am right on that, and the Government’s intentions regarding that?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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May I suggest that there is plenty of space if the hon. Gentleman wishes to speak? These are becoming speeches, rather than questions. I am more than happy to put him on the list if he wishes. We have plenty of room.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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As Mr Speaker says, a more detailed response can be given to my hon. Friend’s question in due course, but he is quite right to focus on the point about banks. More than 75,000 people have been contacted and could face criminal prosecutions and financial penalties. HMRC has already recovered more than £500 billion through other robust measures, including: building automated controls into the digital claims process, to prevent more than 100,000 mistaken claims; blocking more than 29,000 claims through pre-payment checks based on risk and intelligence; using cut-off dates around scheme eligibility; and requiring customers to be registered for pay-as-you-earn online and self-assessment. Nor is HMRC’s work done; work to recoup fraudulently obtained funds continues. Those identified face repaying up to double the amount they actually received, plus interest; in more serious cases, they risk criminal prosecution.

The motion also refers to public procurement, another area in which the Government take our responsibility to the taxpayer extremely seriously. In the case of personal protective equipment, our focus was on saving lives and protecting our healthcare workers. That was the top priority, and I make no apologies for that. But again, that did not mean, either then or now, that we were lax in our approach to procurement. We acted swiftly to secure and deliver more than 17.5 billion pieces of PPE to the frontline. The vast majority of the PPE we ordered—in the region of 97%—was suitable for use, either in the NHS or other non-medical settings.

My right hon. Friend the Health Secretary explained in a written statement to the House that the need to procure PPE at incredible speed necessarily involved a change in risk appetite. However, I am also clear that, at all times, the principles set out in “Managing Public Money” continued to apply, even under the pressures at the time. The Health Department took decisions on the basis of sound commercial advice. All transactions were approved by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care clearance board. Treasury Ministers and officials made a calculated judgement that the costs of expediting normal processes were outweighed by the benefits to the health of the country. The health of our healthcare workers came first.

Importantly, as with alleged fraud relating to the covid support schemes, this is not over: the Government will pursue any contracts where there has been a technical failure or breach. I said that approximately 97% were okay, but we are pursuing those that were not, in line with the resolution process referred to in each contract.

Downing Street Parties: Police Investigation

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. As he can imagine, I would prefer not to get into the legal position. What I would say is that I expect, as everyone would, the police to conduct their investigation expeditiously and at a time that is, no doubt, in accordance with their own procedures and protocols. He is right to raise the fact that there will be tests—evidence and the burden of proof—and it is always right that a person in this country is innocent unless or until they be proven guilty.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am expecting this to run to about 1.15 pm. We can help each other by speeding through.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment has been undertaken of the damage that partygate has on our economy and inward investment, and on the trust of the British people in this Government?

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Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that I myself, colleagues and constituents were shocked by the alleged lockdown rule breaking by none other than the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). Does the Minister agree that there can be no hypocrisy and that all sides need to be investigated—after all, those in glass houses should not throw beer bottles?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I am sure that “hypocrisy” was not aimed at an individual Member—surely not. I think that was badly phrased and I will let it go.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Nothing in the law forbade people who were legitimately at work from having a 10-minute coffee break in between meetings, and I am sure that people across the country did that, whether they ate cake with it or not. The reality of the matter is that my hon. Friend’s point is completely accurate.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 13th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

It is absolutely ridiculous to characterise the matter in the way that the hon. Lady does. The reality of the matter is that the Labour party engages in trade union entertainment on every possible occasion. There is no conflict of interest in the matter she describes. Indeed, all the matters that are brought to the attention of the relevant authorities are properly dealt with.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is not a very good answer, to be quite honest. I am not impressed with that.

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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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May I take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady again for the support she has provided and the work she has done on the infected blood inquiry? It is no exaggeration to say that she has been instrumental in achieving what has been achieved so far—there is still a lot to do, of course. In answer to her question, of course it would be the wish of everyone concerned to involve the bereaved as much as possible. Baroness Hallett, a Cross-Bench peer, will have command and control of this matter, if I can put it that way, just as Sir Brian Langstaff does in the infected blood inquiry. I am sure that all concerned will have heard what the right hon. Lady has had to say.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are going to topicals early, so there will be a great opportunity to get more people in. Let us start with David Simmonds.

Downing Street Garden Event

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(2 years, 3 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

Michael Ellis Portrait The Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Both the Prime Minister and I came before the House in December to set out the details of the investigation being led by the Cabinet Office into the allegations of gatherings in Downing Street and the Department for Education in November and December 2020. As I did then, I again apologise unreservedly for the upset that these allegations have caused.

The Prime Minister has asked for an investigation to take place—[Hon. Members: “Where is he?”]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I cannot hear what is being said. It is quite obvious that he is not the Prime Minister, so we do not need to keep asking that question. So please can I hear what the Minister has to say? He has got a tough job as it is; do not make it harder for him. Come on, Minister.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Prime Minister has asked for an investigation to take place, and the terms of reference for the investigations that are under way have already been published and deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. The investigations are now being led by Sue Gray. She is the second permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and of course a former director general of propriety and ethics. The Government have committed to publishing the findings of the investigation and providing these to Parliament in the normal way. The terms of reference set out that where there are credible allegations relating to other gatherings, it is open for those to be investigated, and I can confirm to the House that this includes the allegations relating to 15 and 20 May 2020. It will establish the facts, and if wrongdoing is established requisite disciplinary action will be taken.

As with all internal investigations, if evidence emerges of what was potentially a criminal offence the matter will be referred to the Metropolitan police, and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused. Matters relating to adherence to the law are, as ever, matters for the Metropolitan police to investigate, and the Cabinet Office will liaise with them as appropriate. As I am sure Members of this House will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on an ongoing investigation, and the Government have committed to updating the House in due course.

I must again point out, as I did in December, and as I know the House will understand, that there is a long-standing practice of successive Administrations that any human resources matters concerning personnel relating to individuals does need to remain confidential. But Mr Speaker, both the Prime Minister and I came before this House in December; we set out the details of the investigation being led by the Cabinet Office into these allegations of gatherings, and those investigations are continuing. [Interruption.]

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The last of that is not the language we should use, but I think we can let this one go. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not want it to stand on the record.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am appalled at the hon. Gentleman’s tragic loss, and I am so sorry to hear about his mother. My heart goes out to him and his family.

The Prime Minister knows the seriousness of covid-19 and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, he was in intensive care as a consequence of it. The Prime Minister also knows, having spoken to innumerable individuals who suffered loss themselves, that it has resulted in the death of many people in this country and around the world. He knows that, and he will never forget it.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept my assurance that the Prime Minister is someone for whom his responsibilities are writ large. He works hard in the interest of this country and he will be subject to Sue Gray’s investigation, together with her inquiry into all of these parties. I ask him to wait to see the result in, I presume, the relatively short time until we hear from Sue Gray.

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Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have all seen the footage on Sky News of the Prime Minister smirking, even chuckling, at the suggestion that he attended this party in his own back garden, so may I ask the Minister a straightforward question: is it not the case that the Prime Minister has not just been laughing at the public but has also been lying to them?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. That is not the language we use and the hon. Member could temper it: “inadvertently” might do.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is nonsense to make that assumption or accusation against the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister does not take these matters lightly and never has done; he takes them incredibly seriously. He has rightly devoted a preponderance of his time as Prime Minister to this pandemic: he knows its consequences—he personally has been affected by it—and he sees the victims all the time when he visits arounds the country. The hon. Gentleman’s characterisation is unworthy and unfair.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I do not accept the characterisation that the hon. Lady puts on the matter, and neither does the National Audit Office—it looked at this and said, as we have rehearsed in the Chamber, that it sees no evidence of the sort of the thing that she refers to. On emergency procurement, it is crucial in any society for the Government to be able to purchase items at emergency speed, for example if lives are to be saved as a consequence, or in other types of emergency. That is nothing new. The public interest was best served by being able to act quickly and decisively.

As for the point that the hon. Lady makes about the situation now, the public sector has reduced its use of regulation 32 powers—the emergency procurement powers. Their use peaked between April and June 2020 at the height of the initial wave of the pandemic. In central Government, the use of these powers has reduced by more than two thirds over the six months from April to September 2021 compared with the same period last year. The use of emergency contracts is rapidly declining.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We come now to topical questions; we will have quite a few free hits today, as we are moving on to them rather early.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Talking of which, I call Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I do indeed agree. The fact is that the Labour party wishes to make cheap political points when in reality the House of Lords provides expert service to the nation, and does so extremely inexpensively compared to the second chambers in most western democracies.

Northern Ireland Protocol: EU Negotiations

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We are pursuing a negotiation and the hon. Lady will have to wait and see.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Finally, but certainly not with the least of questions, I call Jim Shannon.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I like hearing from the hon. Gentleman, but his questions have to be shorter. If he wants to make speeches, I am sure that he will catch the eye of somebody in the Chair later.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is right, Mr Speaker; you have saved the best till last.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Or longest till last.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is right that Marks & Spencer makes a powerful point. Time is of the essence. Her Majesty’s Government will move to remove barriers if necessary. The article 16 application has already been met and we are alive to the time sensitivity involved.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am happy to offer the hon. Lady some reassurance. Ninety-eight per cent. of the electorate already own an accepted form of photographic identification, including 99% of black, Asian and minority ethnic electors and 99% of young electors aged 18 to 29. The Electoral Commission’s survey on this matter offers reassurance because the majority of the public say that a requirement to show identification when voting at polling stations would make them more confident, and 66% of people want more confidence in the security of the system. She really ought to read the 2015 Tower Hamlets election court judgment, where she will see the nature of the problem at hand.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Geraint Davies. Not here.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I strongly support what the Paymaster General has said, and I welcome the team to their positions.

When I had responsibility for these matters, I visited and spoke to the electoral officials in Northern Ireland, which has had this system for 18 years and where it works perfectly well. People in Northern Ireland are perfectly capable of using it, and I have no doubt that it will be a great success when we roll it out in the rest of the United Kingdom. Frankly, these scare stories are more likely to depress voter turnout than the introduction of voter ID.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The question has been withdrawn, but I will ask the Attorney General to provide an answer, then I will call Kenny MacAskill to ask his supplementary.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General (Michael Ellis)
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In order to avoid prejudice to criminal proceedings, I may issue what is called a media advisory notice in order to inform and ensure responsible media coverage. I have launched a campaign called #thinkbeforeyoupost to promote awareness of the risks of ill-judged social media posts. It is critical that the evidence is tested before a jury—any evidence should be tested before a jury—in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion.

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Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A face-value ticket for an Eric Clapton concert in May next year at the Royal Albert Hall costs £175, yet tickets are on sale on Viagogo at a 577% mark-up, at £1,185 per ticket. The seats in question are owned by a party related to a vice-president of the corporation. The Attorney General wrote to me last week to say that he wishes to

“move this matter towards a satisfactory resolution as swiftly as possible.”

Will he therefore take immediate action on this serious and clear conflict of interest at a British institution and permit the Charity Commission to take this to a tribunal?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Eric Clapton is a rock star, just to help the Attorney General!

Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for that elucidation, Mr Speaker. The Royal Albert Hall and the Charity Commission have been working to try to resolve the matter that the hon. Lady refers to without recourse to litigation, and I am awaiting the outcome of that process. I have instructed my officials to continue to engage with the parties that the hon. Lady refers to, to assist them in working through the complex issues raised by this case. I will say, however, that no decision has been taken on whether to consent to the referral to the Charity Commission. I will approach the matter as a neutral umpire, commensurate with my role as Attorney General and as parens patriae.

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Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The hon. Lady is mischaracterising what was said last week. The cross-Government rape review was published on 18 June. It has produced key actions: an initial ambition to return volumes of cases progressing through the system to pre-2016 levels by the end of this Parliament; an ambition to ensure that no victim is left without access to a mobile phone for more than 24 hours; the launching of pathfinder projects to test innovative ways for the police and the CPS to approach rape cases—so much has been included in the rape review.

I very much accept, as I said in the rape review’s opening paragraphs, that a great deal needs to be done and that we are not happy with where the process has been. A great deal of work is going into that, however, and increased support for victims throughout the criminal justice system is important. That is happening, including through increased provisions, for example, with ISVAs—independent sexual violence advisers.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am disappointed by the number of questions we have got through today. In future, I hope, we might be able to get through quite a few more. I will now suspend the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 20th May 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I thank my right hon. Friend for the point he makes. He thinks of the defence position, and is right to do so, and I am very grateful to him for raising it. I recognise how distressing delays can be, both to defendants and, of course, to victims, but these have been unprecedented times.

On the case my right hon. Friend refers to, decisions on whether to impose or extend pre-charge bail are operational and are not therefore something that Ministers can interfere with, but he makes a powerful point. It is right that those decisions are independent of Government, and it is important to note that the length of pre-charge bail is separate from the length of the investigation. There may be particular circumstances that cause concomitant delays in individual cases that are outwith my immediate knowledge or ability to intervene, and nor would it be appropriate for me to do so, but I recognise the point he makes. If he wishes to write to me about that individual case, we can certainly forward it to the relevant authority.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I now suspend the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements for the next business to be made.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 18th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
- Hansard - -

It is important, of course, that everyone around this United Kingdom, and especially my hon. Friend’s constituents in Clwyd South, understands and follows the law and guidance as regards the covid-19 regulations to keep the country safe. Through the information that is available on the gov.uk website, and the Government’s advertising and announcements, the law in England has been made clear to the public. It is really important that the devolved Administration in Wales make their laws and guidance clear to people in Wales. The Government continue to seek a co-ordinated approach across the UK where appropriate.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am now suspending the House to enable the necessary arrangements for the start of the next business.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 4th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - -

Of course, I have to leave spending review issues to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of Exchequer, but the reality is that the CPS best practice domestic abuse framework seeks to address withdrawal rates by delivering a high-quality service to victims, and it encourages more timely court listings. As the hon. Lady knows, we cannot always guarantee immediate court listings, but the CPS does encourage more timely court listings for this type of case. The provision of holistic support for victims—including, where appropriate, the support of an independent domestic abuse adviser—is very important. Funding is going into this issue and it is being given priority. More can be done—the hon. Lady is right and in agreement with Government Members that this is an important area of priority—and we will continue to focus on the issue.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I am now suspending the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements for the next business to be made.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is entirely right about public protection. It is one reason why, exceptionally, I will refer a case involving a dangerous offender, for example. In two separate cases this year—one involving a stabbing, and the other involving rape, where both the victims were lone females—the offenders had their original sentences extended following my reference to the Court of Appeal to properly reflect the dangerousness of their offending. She is quite right to highlight this point, and that work will continue.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to allow the safe exit of Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for a few minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 24th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - -

The chief investigator of the SFO led a taskforce in relation to covid, to assess all operational activity that was initially halted by the pandemic as part of the office’s wider recovery planning. In addition, general counsel for the Serious Fraud Office introduced virtual systems for reviewing cases and virtual processes. We have been monitoring the SFO closely and it has been performing well in very difficult circumstances.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Flight Officer Blackman, you are clear to land.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, ground control.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his answers thus far. Will he go a bit further on the recent deferred prosecution agreements, including those with G4S and with Airbus? What assessment has he made of the benefits of DPAs as a tool for prosecuting those accused of such offences?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 9th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - -

Prosecuting advocates play an essential role in our criminal justice system, and the Government support them, as can be seen with the recent influx of money from the Treasury to the Crown Prosecution Service. On 30 March, the CPS announced measures enabling interim invoices to be raised. That is just one mechanism by which we are supporting criminal practitioners working on Crown Court cases. They are now able to claim hardship payments, for example, which have been expedited. Millions of pounds in extra funding is being provided for not-for-profit providers. We are supporting the legal community across the board in what I accept are very difficult times.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Michael Ellis and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 4th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - -

We are supporting the legal aid system, as we always have done. The reality is that we are expediting outstanding fee schemes where payments need to be made more quickly than normal; we have reduced the stage lengths before payments are made in the cases that are ongoing; and we have concluded main hearings and ongoing cases and made payment before hearings have been concluded. A multiple series of measures is being made to assist everyone at the Bar and, in fact, in all branches of the legal profession, including payments of up-front fixed fees of £500 for covid-19 matters. Every measure is being taken to support the legal profession, but I accept that there are challenges, as there are in many professions during this crisis.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am now suspending the House for five minutes.