Israel and Gaza

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Monday 16th October 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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The hon. Lady makes a perfectly reasonable point. The Leader of the House is in her place and will have heard what she has said.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues are making themselves available to speak to colleagues, because we are very aware that they will have constituency issues to discuss.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for giving that immediate answer. I hope the hon. Lady and the rest of the House will appreciate that Ministers are doing their best to make themselves available, especially where there are particular issues relating to constituents.

I hope the House will settle down, as we move on to the next item of business. Will those who are leaving do so quietly and swiftly?

Tributes to Her Late Majesty the Queen

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Saturday 10th September 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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It is an honour to bring to a close the tributes paid to her most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I speak today as Leader of the House of Commons, but also for the people of Portsmouth, a city she visited not just for fleet reviews, civic events, homecomings, or ship commissioning, but in transit to board her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia. In all cases, the people of my city remember her connection to and understanding of the tools of UK sea power, our sailors, our civilians, their families, our dockyard and our warships. For a time, that was her life, too: she had worn a uniform; she was a naval wife. She understood service and sacrifice and the burdens people carried. That empathy was evident in all that she did. It was no surprise to hear so many tributes from hon. and right hon. Members full of examples of that personal kindness, or of her concern and care for the staff of this estate, including her desire for the Vice-Chamberlain’s weekly notes to keep her up to speed on the gossip.

The Queen was our Polaris, but she was not a distant Queen. She took an interest in us all, because she recognised the burden of service. Her reign began with a very public grief, because she could not mourn her father in private. She loved Balmoral not just for its beauty and peace, but because she got to sleep in the same bed for a whole six weeks. Of all the exceptional things that she did, of all the people and places that she experienced, her rare night of normality, of freedom, out with her sister to celebrate victory in Europe was, in her words, “one of the most memorable”. For me, the fact that she met her new Prime Minister in person and prepared to take a Privy Council 24 hours before her death illustrates the depth of her devotion to duty.

The Queen lived and died in the service of the nation, as her father and his father before him did. In the final analysis, this then is the measure of all greatness. It is not weighed by gain, but in loss. Sacrifice is the ultimate test of faith and duty. All that is yours must be laid down for all that is us. All that is they must be laid down for all that is we. For only those that bear this cross can wear the crown, because crowns are not made just of jewels and precious metals; they are mostly made of love.

Speaking after 9/11, the Queen comforted us and the rest of the world by saying that grief was the price of love. Her words should comfort us still. We may now feel lost and uncertain, just like some may have felt 70 years ago when she vowed that her life would be dedicated to us. If only they had known what a life she would lead, what glories and hope and vision she would bestow. They need not have worried, and nor should we now. Like his mother’s grief at her father’s death, His Majesty’s grief, too, will not be a private one. He will lead us in mourning. He also carries the cross—a cross of sacrifice and service.

Our great Queen has entrusted us all with a living legacy of triumph over tribulation, of cheerfulness over challenge, and of dedication and determination. She has left us, but her values remain with us. Her example compels us to continued fidelity to our King and our country. God save the King.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 8th July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
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What assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy of the Government’s civil contingency plans and (b) preparedness for a potential future pandemic.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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We regularly assess contingency plans and preparedness for major risks, including pandemics. In December 2020, we updated the national risk register to include new risks. We are currently reviewing the Government’s national risk assessment methodology with external partners ahead of refreshing the internal national security risk assessment early next year.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves [V]
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Exercise Cygnus, carried out in 2016, found:

“The UK’s preparedness and response, in terms of its plans, policies and capability, is currently not sufficient to cope with the extreme demands of a severe pandemic”.

Key recommendations from the exercise on surge capacity, school closures and protecting care homes were not acted on, which ultimately led to the Government’s chaotic handling of covid-19. Given that the warning signs had been identified in this report, why did the Government handle the pandemic so woefully, and what is being done now to prevent this from ever happening again?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The flaw with Exercise Cygnus was with regard to the risk methodology that sat behind it, and I have given evidence to a number of Select Committees on that basis. The hon. Member will know that we have rectified that now by changing the methodology, so rather than just focus on high-risk situations that would have an incredible detrimental impact and are likely to happen, we also look at situations that would have such an impact but are less likely to happen. It is not just pandemics we have to prepare for; it is a whole raft of possible events. I think that methodology and the new risk register put us in a much stronger position.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
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What recent discussions his Department has had with the Welsh Government on matters within his ministerial responsibility.

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Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
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What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the potential implications of the road map out of lockdown for people who are immunosuppressed.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The Department continues to work with the Health Secretary on these issues. When we set out the details of step 4 regarding those who are immunosuppressed, there will be new guidance that GPs will be able to use when working with those patients.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker
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My constituent Sue Gresham is a tireless campaigner for all those who are immunosuppressed, and she has raised this many times. It was highlighted just last week that those with blood cancer feel there is little information being given about the efficacy of the vaccine being lower for the immunosuppressed. It would be very reassuring if my right hon. Friend could tell me that the Government will write urgently to everyone in the UK whose medical condition requires immuno-suppression to advise that they may not be protected and what precautions they can take themselves as we unlock.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend’s constituent for all the work she has done on these matters. I can say to my hon. Friend that we are in a much better position because of the work that we have previously done on shielding and gathering data on people who might need further protections. In addition to the new guidance I announced for GPs, there is obviously work going on with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, particularly focused on that group to ensure that they are a priority for receiving booster injections.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 27th May 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (Ind)
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What steps he is taking to support businesses that are subject to non-tariff barriers to trade with the EU.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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We have been working closely with businesses to help them adjust to any new requirements for trading with the EU. Monthly Office for National Statistics trade figures have shown that exports to the EU have rebounded strongly and have been above average monthly 2020 levels.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford [V]
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On top of the impact on our local fishing fleet, Brexit is driving businesses to move operations to Europe. Foxglide, a sportswear company, is not just facing shipping delays and having to pay VAT on the materials it imports, but, due to rules of origin, facing tariffs on the garments it exports to the EU. So does the Minister accept that, contrary to the Prime Minister’s claims, the deal does not deliver tariff-free trade and is damaging local economies?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising that particular case. As she will know, we are always happy to talk directly to businesses, or through their Members of Parliament, to see what we can do to help their particular circumstances, but all the issues that she raises are being worked through by my noble Friend Lord Frost. We are also setting up new structures to work with our counterparts in the EU. We have opportunities with member states to resolve these matters.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin [V]
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UK trade exports to the EU fell 23% in the first quarter of the year, compared with 0.8% to non-EU countries. It is clear to everyone that that is a consequence of the Tories’ Brexit deal—everyone that is except this Government. Will the Minister finally accept that her Government’s deal has harmed exports—in other words, harmed business in my constituency, in her constituency and right across these islands?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I do not accept that. Businesses have had to contend with a huge amount and they have done a tremendous job to get this far. There are remaining issues, but, on the trade figures, as I said in my opening remarks, they have rebounded; they are actually above average compared with what they were at the beginning of last year. What the hon. Lady does not refer to is the 63 trade deals that we have done elsewhere in the world and that will bring huge opportunities for businesses in her constituency and across the UK.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards
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Five months ago, I raised with the Cabinet Secretary the case of a local business facing significant problems importing from Belgium. It is now reporting a doubling in time before products arrive, significant extra costs and significant extra red tape. These are not just teething problems. Is it not clear that the task requires wholescale dental treatment, starting with a far closer alignment with the single market, starting with an urgent veterinary agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary rules?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I would be very happy to look at any cases that hon. Members raise. We can put them in touch with the subject matter experts to work through what mitigations we can bring and what financial support we can give to make sure that businesses are accessing the schemes. As I say, my noble Friend Lord Frost is very focused on these issues. We have done a huge amount of work with businesses directly but also through their trade bodies, and we will bring forward new support for them as we go further to give them the bespoke advice that they need.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP)
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In February, I raised with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the issue of Wilde Mode, a company in my constituency, and the increases in shipping costs it has had. In the past week or so, it has confirmed that it is still being quoted about €1,000 to ship in from Poland, when pre Brexit it was effectively zero. What concrete action are the Government going to take to resolve these problems, to end this uncompetitiveness and to mitigate these massive Brexit-driven cost increases?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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In addition to the work that my noble Friend Lord Frost is leading on, which the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of, and the financial support we have put in place, we are monitoring what businesses are being charged, whether it is through trader support services or through particular aspects of the supply chain. We are monitoring those costs, and that is factored into our work and the work that Lord Frost is taking forward.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie
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Monitoring is fine, but we need action. Let me raise the issue of another business: ATL Turbine Services, which brings into Scotland for repair turbine parts from around Europe and the world. It has told me that its post-Brexit admin costs are now 10 to 15 times greater than they were last year. It cannot use the Revenue’s post-VAT accounting processes. It is encountering significantly more shipping errors, not just costs. Most damningly, it has said that, while the high-level structure has been put in place, the details of how it works in practice are basically non-existent and, where they do exist, have fallen short. Cost increases, administrative burdens, shipping errors, no useful guidance—when will this Government finally take these issues seriously? Would it not be better to admit, finally, that the truth is that, for business, Brexit is not working?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I have been doing a large amount of work with Lord Frost to look at what advice and support there is for businesses and what their needs are. They now need at this stage more bespoke support, and we are standing that up and putting it in place. We will be informing Members of this House about that in short order. As well as mitigating the difficulties that we are having, as a nation, to work through, we want people to maximise the opportunities. The trade deals that I referred to represent £217 billion-worth of business. We want all businesses across the UK to maximise that and we will provide the space for them to do that.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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What plans his Department has for transitioning to permanent trading arrangements under the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Following the ratification of the trade and co-operation agreement, we are working with the EU to set up the Partnership Council and the specialised committees that form part of the treaty infrastructure to ensure that new trading arrangements are implemented and are working effectively.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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From the testimony we heard at the Joint Committee session yesterday and the answers we have had today, we know that the Government are in complete chaos on all of this. They went into Brexit with their eyes wide shut. Is it not the case that, once we are clear of the covid pandemic, the chaos and true costs of Brexit will become clear?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I would gently say to the hon. Gentleman that Lord Frost and his team are working through these issues. Only next month, we will hopefully be having the first Partnership Council meeting. Those structures will be stood up, so we will have other methods where we can work through these issues. When Lord Frost goes into bat on those issues, it would be helpful if Members of this House stood up for all nations of the United Kingdom in the negotiations and got behind him. I think that would improve our chances.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)
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What progress the Government have made on the public inquiry into the covid-19 outbreak.

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Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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There are real concerns that bereaved parents who lost their children to the contaminated blood scandal could be omitted from future compensation packages for victims, as they were with the ex gratia payments. I have written to the Paymaster General about this. Please will she meet me and the Smith family, who tragically lost their son Colin, aged just seven, after he was infected with blood from Arkansas prison? This is about acknowledging their loss, and it is the very least they deserve, given the injustices that they have endured.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady and any of the victims of this appalling scandal. I raised this issue at the recent meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, and I want to let all those people who have lost children know that just because we published the written ministerial statement, which made reference to other support for other individuals, that does not mean that they are not at the forefront of our minds. The compensation study that we recently announced will obviously be looking at many of the issues that they have raised, but I would be happy to meet them.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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Following Lord Pickles’ report “Securing the ballot: review into electoral fraud”, I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to support the introduction of voter ID. Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that this will be delivered by the local elections next year? Furthermore, he can be reassured of the support of Bolton West’s vibrant LGB, trans, BAME and working-class communities for this effort, because it might surprise Labour that they actually participate in the modern world.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 25th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to ensure the flow of trade of food and animal products to the EU.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Overall traffic flow at UK ports has now stabilised. The Government have helped exporters to meet new requirements and also worked with EU border control posts to ensure that any issues are quickly resolved.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher [V]
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World Feeds Ltd in Thorne and FourFriends Pet Food in Dunsville, both in Don Valley, are having issues importing and exporting pet food products between the UK and the EU. It pains me to know that two businesses in my constituency are seeing their cash flow severely disrupted and their reputation damaged in the eyes of their European customers and suppliers. Can my right hon. Friend therefore inform the House what her Department is doing further to rectify such issues? What reassurances can she give these two particular businesses?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am very sorry to hear that the two businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency are suffering cash-flow issues as a result of, one assumes, goods coming out of customs controls and being then exported back into the EU. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved Administrations have set up the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which is looking at these issues, but I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the precise issues those companies are facing to see what further we can do in the interim while these things are resolved.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
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What steps the Government are taking to increase the opportunities for small businesses to bid for Government contracts.

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Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
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What steps the Government are taking to simplify export procedures to the EU for UK manufacturers.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Our trade and co-operation agreement with the EU provides for 100% tariff-free and quota-free access to each other’s markets—the first trade agreement in the world to do so. We are working closely with business, including manufacturing, to minimise any potential disruption.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham [V]
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I wrote to the Minister six weeks ago about my constituent Graham Leggett, who said his worst fears had come true, and shared the concerns of a local freight operator who said that Brexit

“is a far bigger disaster than the huge disaster that I predicted.”

Mr Leggett imports materials to sell across the UK and EU, but now finds it near impossible to arrange exports because he does not have a physical operation in the EU. The impact of paperwork—which he has in order—and extra charges has been catastrophic for his business, 60% of which is with the EU, and it appears that his and other businesses will go bust. This is more than a hiccup or teething problem. What message and help does the Minister have for Mr Leggett?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am sorry to hear that that business is having ongoing difficulties and that other businesses are too. Frictionless trade would have required regulatory alignment with the EU, which would have undermined our own autonomy in that area and our sovereignty as an independent trading nation. That was not a price that we were prepared to pay. However, we do recognise that these are ongoing difficulties. I would be very happy to look at the individual case. We will be bringing forward further practical measures to address these issues and to provide business with more support.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin [V]
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Bedfordshire chamber of commerce is doing an excellent job helping businesses in Bedford and Kempston to cope with the significant challenges that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal has imposed on them. Businesses are in shock, trying to overcome the new and complex operational challenges around rules of origin, unexpected tariffs, VAT implications and the vast swathes of logistical paperwork. The Minister needs to understand that these are not just teething problems. Will she attend a roundtable with Bedfordshire chamber of commerce to hear the real experiences of small and medium-sized enterprises that do not know whether they will survive this disruption?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that offer. I am always happy to meet businesses. My noble Friend Lord Frost and I are looking at ways that we can gather information more swiftly and in real time from businesses that are facing difficulties. I would be very happy to follow up with the hon. Gentleman after this session.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
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Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton tells me that

“the notion that no tariffs means no problem is not the case at all. We still have to deal with agent fees, phytosanitary certificates and organic certificates. The admin fees are the same whether it’s a box of broccoli or a pallet of broccoli.”

These barriers are going to cost Unicorn £170,000 a year. What are the Government going to do to reduce the administrative burden, or support the small businesses that are disproportionately affected?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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We have already provided financial support to compensate sectors that are suffering particular issues. We have also put in place a framework whereby we are able to work through these problems. While we do that, we are obviously looking at what we can do to mitigate and reduce prospective burdens that other businesses might be facing, such as stretching out the timetable by which people would have to comply with other rules and regulations. Again, I would be very happy to look at any specific cases, and that offer is to all Members.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Robertson [V]
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At the last Cabinet Office questions, I mentioned that a lorry from my constituency was unnecessarily detained in France for 12 hours. The Cabinet Office took that up with vigour. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster really went about it; I thank him for that and congratulate him on that work. Is the Minister making assessments of any other lorries that are unnecessarily held up as they try to get their goods across the continent, since of course frictionless trade benefits not just this country but our friends on the continent as well?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for his thanks and praise to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. We look at and vigorously pursue all cases that Members raise with us to ensure that such businesses are being supported in every way. What this case shows is that, as well as some genuine issues that need to be worked through with our partners in the EU and with member states on a bilateral basis, there are some issues that are purely related to people not understanding the processes or implementing them incorrectly. That has caused a large share of the difficulties that we have seen, but those issues are being resolved. I am very pleased that we were able to help in my hon. Friend’s case.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones [V]
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Like many on the Opposition Benches, I believe that Ministers must be held to account for the commitments they made to British businesses and industry during the Brexit negotiations, so can the Minister outline what discussions she has had with the Welsh Government about protecting the businesses and livelihoods in Newport West that are paying the price for this Government’s bad deal?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I have had a very large number of discussions with the Welsh Government, and also with officials there, with regard to a whole raft of issues related to our leaving the EU, and I will continue to do so in my new role.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier [V]
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The Road Haulage Association has highlighted that UK exports to the EU will not recover until summer at the earliest due to a shortage of customs agents. The industry estimates that we need 30,000 customs agents for the whole of the UK, and we are presently well short of that target. Will the Minister delineate what steps are currently being taken to meet that target?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The original assumptions that were made about numbers of people that we would need either in customs or of vets, for example, were overestimated, because having looked at it we now have a much clearer understanding of what is actually required. We have obviously, through securing this agreement, been able to mitigate a lot of those things. A great deal of these things are, as I say, about people not understanding how things should be implemented, so a large part of our work is about ensuring that businesses, agents and others understand how these processes need to be operating. With the problems that genuinely remain, we now have a framework in place where we can work through those things.

Jack Dromey Portrait Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab) [V]
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The Food and Drink Federation reported this week that exports are down by 75%, salmon has collapsed by 98%, and beef is down by 91%. The industry is suffering a total loss of £750 million, and much of that collapse is down to the bundles of red tape introduced by the Government’s Brexit deal. Indeed, the British Meat Processors Association has said that the extra paperwork will cost its members £120 million a year. This is not what British business was promised by the Government. What do the Government now propose to do to help the industry though a crisis not of its own making but which threatens jobs, livelihoods and indeed businesses up and down our country?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Our management information shows that overall ro-ro freight traffic between the UK and the EU is now back to normal levels for this time of year. That is, in very great part, due to the hard work put in by traders and hauliers to prepare for the end of the transition period and to work through the new things that they are having to do. I would point the hon. Gentleman to the deal that we secured and the framework that we have put in place to agree to trade facilitations going forward, including potential reductions in the frequency of import checks where that is justified. It is in both parties’ interests that we do that. That is how we will be resolving these remaining issues. Our track record since we left the EU shows that, where further support, either financial or in other ways, is needed for sectors, we will do that.

Karl Turner Portrait Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
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What recent steps he has taken to help ensure value for money in public procurement.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 11th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
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What offer his Department (a) made to and (b) received from the EU on reciprocal visa-free travel for touring musicians during negotiations on the future relationship with the EU.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The Government proposed to the EU that musicians and their technical staff be added to the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors in the “entry and temporary stay” chapter of the trade and co-operation agreement. That would have allowed musicians and their staff to travel and perform in the EU more easily without needing work permits. The proposals were developed following consultation with the EU’s creative industries, but were rejected by the EU.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss [V]
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The UK’s music industry is worth £5.8 billion annually and supports 200,000 jobs, so for a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister to suggest recently that a touring visa was not compatible with Brexit goals has caused huge anger and frustration to many of my constituents who work in the sector and are seeing no benefits of Brexit, only additional costs and red tape. What is the Minister doing to secure reciprocal visa-free travel for those in our creative industries whose careers and jobs depend on it?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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We continue to work with the EU Commission and member states to ensure that we can have the kind of opportunities that the hon. Lady describes. In the meantime, we do want to support the sector, which is why the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has set up the £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund, which is currently supporting 75,000 jobs.

Angela Crawley Portrait Angela Crawley [V]
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Radiohead have called this Government “spineless”. Whether it is Elton John, Ronan Keating or Brian Cox, there is a continuing all-star line-up of some of our biggest exports who are emphasising the importance of touring for musicians at all stages of their careers. How does the Minister feel about the prospect of major acts deciding that they need base themselves abroad because our parochial laws do not allow the movement needed to compete on the global stage?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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It is not about our parochial laws. During the negotiations, the EU tabled text regarding paid activities that can be conducted without a visa. Those proposals would not have addressed our arts sector’s concerns; they did not deal with work permits at all and would not have allowed support staff to tour with artists. The only way we are going to get movement on this issue is to get the EU to agree to our very reasonable proposals. I urge everyone, whether they are politicians or from the cultural sector, to work with us to persuade our counterparts of our common-sense approach.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson [V]
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Brexit chaos is not just impacting bands and orchestras in the music industry. Given prohibitive new Brexit visa costs, they will need to begin hiring crew and equipment from European suppliers. What hope does the Minister offer those who face losing work because of Brexit?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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We are, through DCMS, providing support to the sector. We want to get these issues resolved, but in the meantime we want to do all we can to support businesses and artists, whether they have been impacted because of travel restrictions or the pandemic. That is why DCMS has set up a new forum to work with the sector, to listen to its needs and to act on them, and obviously the Scottish Government are part of that.

Virendra Sharma Portrait Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab)
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What steps his Department is taking to improve democratic inclusion throughout society.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 17th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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What assessment his Department has made of the accessibility of voting for blind and partially sighted people.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The Government are committed to ensuring that elections are accessible for all those eligible to vote and have been working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People to improve the voting process for blind and partially sighted people.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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What steps is the Minister taking to introduce the recommendations made in the RNIB’s most recent report, which found that only one in 10 blind voters and less than half of partially sighted voters could vote independently and in secret in the 2019 general election?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important issue and for the work she has done on improving the situation. We have been working intensively with the RNIB. Any systems and reforms that are brought in do need to be tested, and it is unfortunate that the cancellation of the elections this year has meant that we have not had that opportunity. But we will do next year. We are determined that, whether someone wants to vote in person or via post, they have a method of doing so that meets their needs and is secure.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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If he will negotiate a phased period of implementation for new trading rules after the end of the transition period.

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Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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What plans the Government has to ensure that the May 2021 local elections are covid-19 secure.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The UK Government are working with local returning officers, the Electoral Commission and public health bodies to identify and resolve the challenges involved in delivering the elections next May.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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The May 2021 elections will see a record number of different elections with various different voting systems all taking place on the same day. In normal times this would pose an immense logistical challenge, without the added complications brought about by the pandemic. Will the Minister outline why the Government have ruled out an all-postal ballot and refused to make any legislative changes to consider any new forms of voting, as we have seen across the globe?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for pointing out the extreme challenges that exist to ensure that the elections can take place in a covid-secure environment. They are considerable, but they cannot compromise the security and integrity of the ballot, and we feel that by moving to an all-postal system, that may be the case. We want people to be able to vote in person or by post, and we want them to do that in a covid-secure way, and that is what we and our partners are working towards.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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I know from my own experience that a large proportion of electoral staff and volunteers is made up from the demographic that would be considered vulnerable, with many retired and older people volunteering. If the Government have refused to provide any more funding for the running of the May 2021 elections, what steps are they taking to ensure that there is not a huge shortage of electoral staff?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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One of the partners we are working with is public health organisations and authorities, and the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we want to ensure that everyone, whether they are officers or volunteers, is safe. We also anticipate, for example, that we will have extra demands on postal votes and so forth, and we are determined to ensure that we have the supply to meet that demand, but the issues that he raises are at the forefront of our minds.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) set out the scale of these elections very clearly. With less than five months to go until these major polls right across the United Kingdom, I hope the Minister will be able to respond to some questions that are on the minds of electoral administrators, campaigners and, most importantly, voters. Will voters be required to wear face coverings in polling stations? If so, will polling clerks be expected to enforce that, and what resources will they get to do that? If they are not required to wear face coverings, what protections will be put in place to protect staff in polling stations? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that we have adequate staffing at polling stations? As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) set out—and I do not think the Minister adequately answered his question—so many of our volunteers are from an older demographic, and if the vaccine programme is not sufficiently rolled out, we face a shortage of staff.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising those issues. Hopefully, we will be in a happier place when the elections arrive because of the vaccination programme, but she raises some important issues. Just as retailers, healthcare settings and so forth have put in place measures to make them covid-secure, whether those are public health-related measures or the enforcement and policing of them, we will do the same at polling stations and at counts. We will ensure that there will still be the transparency that people want through scrutineers and so forth. We will also introduce some slight legislative changes to enable, for example, somebody who has to isolate very close to the election to still be able to cast their vote. We are working through all these issues with those organisations methodically, and we will have those elections. They will be safe, and they will still have integrity.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall (Gedling) (Con)
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What discussions he has had with the Electoral Commission on tackling electoral fraud.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Ministers and officials engage with the Electoral Commission on a regular basis about work to support the effective and secure running of elections at a local and parliamentary level. We will continue to work with the Electoral Commission to ensure that all elections that take place in the UK are both fair and free of any electoral fraud or attempted electoral fraud.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall
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I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. In his judgment against the former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman for electoral fraud, Richard Mawrey QC found that one council candidate had, in the space of six weeks, fought two wards in the same borough using two different names and two different false addresses. That fact came to light not through investigation by the authorities but because local residents were able to inspect copies of the electoral register under supervision. That right seems to have been thrown into doubt because of confusing guidance issued by the Electoral Commission. Could my right hon. Friend get in touch with the chief executive of the Electoral Commission to ensure that clear guidance is issued, so that members of the public looking into these measures do not find themselves prevented from accessing copies under supervision and that further cases they are looking into can come to light?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. Let me be crystal clear: the law is absolutely clear on this. Anyone can inspect copies of the current register under supervision. The register is a public document to enable concerned citizens, such as those he refers to, to check that registers only include those who are properly eligible. I will, of course, look into the matter that he raised, because we want clarity on this very important point.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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What criteria was used by the Advisory Military Sub-Committee to inform its decision not to recommend a service medal award for British nuclear test veterans.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 12th November 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Darren Henry Portrait Darren Henry (Broxtowe) (Con)
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What recent discussions the Government have had with local leaders on tackling the covid-19 outbreak.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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At every stage of the pandemic, the UK Government have engaged with the devolved Administrations, metro mayors and local councils. Local resilience forums are at the frontline of providing the response to tackling covid-19, and the Government will continue to engage with local authorities to beat the virus.

Julian Sturdy Portrait Julian Sturdy [V]
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With covid cases in York now well below the level they were when the city went into tier 2, can the Minister reassure me that the Government are listening closely to the feedback and case numbers they are receiving from the city authorities, and that York’s restrictions from 2 December will be based on the local virus situation and local judgments, not based on decisions imposed by central Government or on wider regional figures?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First of all, let me acknowledge the immense sacrifices that people in York and elsewhere around the country are making, and what people are having to endure. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the current restrictions will end on 2 December, and we will then return to a local and tiered approach. The Government will work with my hon. Friend and other local leaders in the area to determine the most appropriate response. We will be tailoring any tiers that people have to go into, as we have done previously, depending on what is needed locally.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds
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Will my right hon. Friend join me in commending the strong local agency working and local resilience forums, such as our own in Hampshire? Will the Government commit to working with local areas to really understand the pressures that, sadly, will persist even after this time? I am thinking in particular of areas such as children’s services.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am very pleased to join my right hon. Friend in sending thanks to Hampshire LRF and all the LRFs around the country, which are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances. We very much understand that they are in the frontline of this fight, and communications with them and with local authorities are vital. That is why we put in liaison officers at the early stage of the crisis. We know and understand very well the additional pressures that they are under, particularly, as he says, with regard to children’s services, and children going into care or being in care for prolonged periods because of pressures on the family courts.

Darren Henry Portrait Darren Henry
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Will my right hon. Friend let us know what Government discussions are taking place about an exit strategy for lockdown, so that local businesses such as pubs and close contact businesses such as Skinderella in Broxtowe can plan ahead?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he has done in recent weeks to stand up for individuals and businesses in his constituency. The Government do listen to all representations that are made, as we have seen in recent weeks—for example, over takeaway beer, which was a suggestion as to how pubs and related businesses could help themselves throughout this period. The Government are always keen to hear ideas from business and hon. Members about how we can best ensure that our economy comes through this strongly. We will continue to listen to all representations made as we leave the current restrictions on 2 December and return to the tiered system.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab)
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What recent assessment he has made of the UK’s preparedness for the end of the transition period.

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Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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What recent discussions he has had with (a) other Departments and (b) local leaders on the logistics of distributing covid-19 vaccines; and if he will make a statement.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The Department of Health and Social Care is working closely with Government Departments and bodies and the NHS, as well as local leaders, on all aspects of vaccine deployment, including distribution logistics.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant [V]
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In his response to the urgent question on Tuesday, the Minister for Defence Procurement said that it is not for the Ministry of Defence to suggest that it should do the logistics. I think he was being unusually shy. My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General will know how good the armed forces are at logistics, so will she ask the Ministry of Defence to definitely get involved in the deployment of the covid-19 vaccine when it is available?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for affording me the opportunity to pay tribute to the work that our armed forces have done across many aspects of this, often visibly but also behind the scenes in providing planning expertise. They have provided in an incredible service to every aspect of the response. This is a massive undertaking—the largest vaccination programme, I think, in the NHS’s history—but, as the deputy chief medical officer has said, plans for it have been under way for some time. That includes logistics, transport and personal protective equipment, but also an expanded workforce so that we can deploy it rapidly. Every part of Government is going to be making a contribution to that, and as soon as the vaccine is approved, we want to be in a position to deliver it to as many people as possible.

Kate Hollern Portrait Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab)
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What plans he has to review the (a) Government’s use and (b) value for money of consultants during the covid-19 outbreak.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con)
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What steps the Government is taking to prepare ports for trade with the EU after the end of the transition period.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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We have created a £200 million port infrastructure fund to provide financing support directly to ports. Furthermore, in July, to help the whole of the border industry prepare, we published a border-operating model for the border. An update will be published shortly, providing further details on policies and processes for the end of the transition period.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish
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Can the Minister assure me that, when it comes to imports, we can actually get our ports ready and get imports through? When it comes to exports, this is much more difficult. Of course, our French cousins have form on this. They have stopped British lamb and British beef in the past, when we have been part of the European Union. What reassurances can we have that we will be able to get exports out, so that our great farming, food and all businesses can export into Europe through France successfully?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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We think it is sensible to agree reciprocal arrangements to allow road transport operators to move to, from and through the UK and the EU. We hope to secure those arrangements; we do not want unnecessary burdens to be placed on hauliers or other road transport operators. It is in everyone’s interests that we do that.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of cross-Government communications during the covid-19 outbreak.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of cross-Government communications during the covid-19 outbreak.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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We evaluate the effectiveness of Government communications. We constantly monitor and gain insights on public awareness and compliance from regular evaluations. This question affords me the opportunity to pay tribute to the Central Office of Information for its work not just on covid-19, but in preparation for the end of the transition period.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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I thank the Minister for that answer. The Cabinet Secretary said that consistency commands confidence. We all heard the Prime Minister last week on TV telling us to work from home again where possible to slow down the second wave of coronavirus. However, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union, civil servants, who have managed stoically, even heroically, during the crisis to keep the machinery of state running while mainly working from home, have now been instructed to return to their offices in order for the Departments to hit arbitrary and outdated Cabinet Office targets. The Government are saying one thing to the country and something entirely different to their workforce. Can the Minister correct this anomaly?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I would be very interested to hear whether the hon. Gentleman has examples of that. As far as I am aware, there are certain areas of government that do require people to come in to work. For example, some of the things that the Cabinet Office deals with have to be done in a secure environment, but we are following the same rules and guidelines that the rest of the UK workforce are. If he has specific examples that he wants me to look at, please send them to me.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore
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Genuine concern has been expressed by the First Minister of Wales about the lack of engagement from the Prime Minister in terms of cross-Government discussions. May I raise a specific point with the Paymaster General? In England, people in restricted areas are able to travel into Wales to go on holiday. In Wales, people in a restricted area, such as in my constituency, are not allowed to travel to go on holiday. This has been asked of the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister this week. Could the Paymaster General, or indeed the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, urge the Prime Minister to say to people living in England, “If you are in a restricted area, please don’t go on holiday, please don’t travel into Wales, please don’t spread the virus”?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will certainly take that up on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf. One of the benefits of the four nations working together is that we try to have as much consistency as possible and anticipate the impact of one set of rules on others, particularly communities living near the borders. I will follow that up for him and be in touch.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
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Government communications this week have been quite shambolic. My constituents have been writing to me to ask for more clear messaging. The Cabinet Office has spent more than £50 million on untendered contracts for media and consultancies, yet Ministers have found it hard to explain local measures this week. It has been reported that mask wearing in shops is going down instead of up, in contradiction to communications, and more people have been told to get the flu jab yet cannot get one. How are members of the public expected to understand and keep up with the changes if Ministers cannot?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I fully recognise that the rules have got more complex—were Matt Lucas recreating the “Baked Potato Song” now, he would have to write an opera. They are more complex because we have regional and local lockdowns, as opposed to a blanket lockdown, and I think that is what the nation wants: we want to keep our economy going and to give people as much freedom as we possibly can, while fighting this virus. By and large, although the public are fed up, they are following the rules and they are working together, with collective responsibility, to beat this virus. All Members of this House can help to deliver the messages by putting them on their Twitter feeds and by communicating them. Only by working together are we going to defeat this virus.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con)
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What progress the Government has made on ensuring regional equality of economic opportunity.

Oral Answers to Questions

Penny Mordaunt Excerpts
Thursday 16th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented national emergency, and Labour understands that in response there has been a need for the Government to procure goods and services at speed, but the flexibility required by extraordinary circumstances is no excuse for reducing transparency or abandoning any attempt at due diligence. How does the Minister explain reports that contracts to the value of more than £830 million have been awarded to at least 12 different companies for personal protective equipment that has never materialised; that £108 million of public funds has been handed to PestFix, a company with just £18,000 of assets; and that £830,000 for communications advice has been given without any tender process to Public First, which is owned by friends of the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser, and although the payment was justified as part of the coronavirus response, it appears to relate to Brexit? How are we to believe that this Government have any kind of a grip on public spending during this crisis?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Authorities are allowed to procure goods and services in extreme emergency situations, but that does not mean that scrutiny or value-for-money principles go out the window, and the hon. Lady will understand that. I am shocked to hear that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster may know people in Public First; I wish further offences to be taken into account and confess that I, too, know people who work for Public First—as does every Member on the Front Bench and every Member on the Back Bench on both sides of the House, because one of Public First’s associates is a much-loved former Deputy Speaker of this House. If the hon. Lady has serious concerns—other than insinuation—about any contracts, there are clear processes to go through, and I urge her to do so.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
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What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the Government’s preparations for the end of the transition period.

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Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
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What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on cross-government planning for a potential second wave of the covid-19 outbreak.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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The Government’s recovery strategy, published on 11 May, stated that we would move from a series of national restrictions to a more targeted set of local measures. We have put in place tools to help us do that, including the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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Although areas in the Jarrow constituency are not currently at risk of going into a full lockdown, like the one that we have seen in Leicester, it is vital that the Government take proactive measures to prevent further local lockdowns. Councils are getting testing data that is sometimes nearly a fortnight old, and they have little information, which is often of little or no help. Will the Minister provide assurances that the Government will improve communications and that data from any test and trace app, when it is operational, will be shared with local authorities to enable them to respond effectively to outbreaks in local areas?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady raises an important point, and I hope that I can give her those reassurances. I gave evidence earlier this week to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, where I emphasised that sharing local data, whether on testing or other planning assumptions, with local authorities, but critically also with the local resilience forums, is vital. They are in the frontline of this fight, so I hope that I can give her those assurances.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood
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The report on preparing for a challenging winter by the Academy of Medical Sciences makes for sobering reading. It warns of a reasonable worst-case scenario in which the R rate rises to 1.7 from September onwards, leading to a second wave of hospital admissions and deaths similar to or worse than the spring. But it also offers hope. As Professor Stephen Holgate says, with relatively low numbers of covid-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us. I am confident that the Minister will have read the report. Will Cabinet Office and the Government grasp that opportunity and act now to implement the report’s recommendations?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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It is vital that we do prepare, and we all know the challenges the NHS in particular faces in winter months. Clearly, with the prospect of a second wave, that will be intensified. Yes, we must prepare, but it is also a reason why we still all need to follow the chief medical officer’s advice to ensure that we minimise the chances of a serious second wave.

Julian Smith Portrait Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con)
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What recent representations he has received from businesses on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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We continue to engage intensively with business as we take forward our implementation work, and that includes the important work of the business engagement forum, which has now met seven times, most recently on 3 July.

Julian Smith Portrait Julian Smith
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I thank the Minister for that answer. Many business sectors across Northern Ireland are extremely concerned about the challenges for their individual areas. May I urge the team over the summer to work as hard as possible to ensure sector-specific approaches to implementation so that we do not just go for a one-size-fits-all policy?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I can give my right hon. Friend those assurances. Departments across Whitehall will be liaising in particular with individual sectors. In addition, in the next few weeks, we will bring forward guidance on the protocol for traders, which will set out details of the extensive end-to-end support that we will offer those engaged in those new administrative processes.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
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What measures he is taking to ensure SMEs are awarded public procurement contracts.

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Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
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What assessment he has made of the effect of the recent political appointment of the National Security Adviser on their ability to carry out the full functions of that role.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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As with previous National Security Advisers, David Frost will be the principal adviser to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on national security strategy, policy, capability and civil contingencies. He will be supported by the civil service in the same way as any other political appointee, with openness, honesty, integrity and impartiality.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan
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Yesterday, MPs stopped someone clearly unsuitable becoming Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Sadly, no such mechanism exists to prevent an ill-judged political appointment to the post of National Security Adviser. When will the Government stop putting the Prime Minister’s political fortunes before our national security?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I think that is very unfair to one of our colleagues, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on that. I know that following last night’s events he tweeted that national security should always be placed ahead of politics, and he is right. On that basis, I urge him, as a fellow Portsmouth MP representing that great garrison and naval city, and as a shadow Defence Minister, to work to build a constructive relationship with the new National Security Adviser. If he actually met him, he might be pleasantly surprised. For the sake of our city and our armed forces, he owes them the opportunity to build that constructive relationship with the person who will lead the independent review.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
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What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the proposal for an internal UK market after the transition period.