Debates between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 25th Oct 2023
Thu 10th Dec 2020

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 22nd February 2024

(1 day, 21 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that very serious situation. Of course, the Government support the right to protest in safety. I shall ensure the Foreign Office has heard his concerns and ask the relevant Minister to get in touch with his office.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Ian Liddell-Grainger.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend has made her point extremely well. Whether those debates were on storm overflows or free school meals, when Conservative Members faced very unfair slurs and intimidation, we did not ask that the procedures of the House be upended and put pressure on a decent man in the Speaker’s Chair to change those processes. That is because it is at the heart of our party that we put the interests of this country first. One of those interests is that democracy in this place is protected.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP leader.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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Last evening, we saw the best of this House in its ability to debate, and we also saw the worst of this House as it descended into farce. I think I speak for everyone in the Chamber now, and yesterday, when I express my deep sorrow that that was able to happen, given the content of what we were debating.

Nevertheless, Mr Speaker, it descended into farce because of a decision that you—and you alone—made to ignore the advice that was given to you by the Clerks. In doing so, on the Opposition day of the Scottish National party, my colleagues and I were denied the ability to vote on a matter which is of grave concern to us, and which, over recent months, we have sought to raise in this Chamber at every available opportunity. It ultimately turned into a Labour Opposition day. That, quite frankly, is not acceptable. As I have expressed to you privately, prior to today’s proceedings, we do not, on these Benches, believe that you can continue in your role as Speaker. We do not have confidence in your ability to do so. I would therefore welcome clarity, either from you or the Leader of the House, about how we can best facilitate the earliest possible vote in this Chamber to that effect.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I hope that he can see, in my actions yesterday, that I am a servant of this House, and that even though it may not be in the Government’s narrow interests to do so, I will protect the rights of all minority parties to be able to air their views in this place and ensure that the parties who are afforded Opposition day debates can have those debates in the fullest sense and have votes on their motions. We create the rules of this House and the Speaker serves at our behest. Given the range of views that have been expressed on the Floor of the House today—many interventions have been supportive of the Speaker, pointing out the pressures that were put on him yesterday—I think that we should take time to reflect. Mr Speaker has said that his door is open to all parties and individual Members, as is mine. But as I said, the Government will listen to this House. I am a servant of this House and I will do its bidding.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I will also come in at this point. I reiterate that I made a judgment call that did not end up in the position where I expected it to. I regret it and I apologise to the SNP—[Interruption.] Just bear with me. I apologise to the House. I made a mistake: we do make mistakes and I own up to mine. We can have an SO24 to get an immediate debate because the debate is so important to the House.

I will defend every Member in this House. Every Member matters to me in this House. As has been said, I never, ever want to go through a situation where I pick up a phone to find a friend, on whatever side, has been murdered by a terrorist. I also do not want another attack on this House—I was in the Chair on that day. I have seen, I have witnessed. I will not share the details, but the details of the things that have been brought to me are absolutely frightening for all Members of the House, on all sides. I have a duty of care and I say that. If my mistake is looking after Members, I am guilty. I am guilty because—[Interruption.]—I have a duty of care that I will carry out to protect people; it is the protection that led me to make a wrong decision. With the risk being put on all Members at the moment, I had serious meetings yesterday with the police on these issues and on threats to politicians as we head towards an election. I do not want anything to happen again.

Yes, I will apologise, as I always will when I make a mistake as I did. I offer an SO24—that is within my gift and power—but I will also do whatever it is to protect anybody in this Chamber or anybody who works in this House. That is my duty of care.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
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I was in Israel last week meeting with hostage families, survivors and friends. I actually felt safer in Israel than I do in this country at this moment in time. I have two reflections on that visit and on what happened yesterday. First, nobody in this House has any business or agency at all in telling the state of Israel where it is able to operate to seek to rescue hostages who are being raped by the Islamic terrorists who hold them. Secondly, if we have a rerun of yesterday’s debate, exactly the same thing will happen again and Members will not vote with their hearts because they are frightened and scared.

What do we expect? For months I have been standing here talking about the people on our streets who are a demanding deaths for Jews, jihad and intifada, as the police stand by and allow that to happen. Last night, a genocidal call, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, was projected on to this building. That message says no Jew is welcome in the state of Israel—in that land. This is going to continue to happen because we are not dealing with it.

Will the Leader of the House explain what will be different if we have a rerun of the debate? How will hon. Members be able to vote with their hearts and consciences? Too many will not do that at the moment because of the threats we are receiving—threats that in some cases are telling us to leave this country and that we or our families should be subjected to pain and death?

Speaker’s Statement

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(2 days, 21 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I wish to respond to the point of order raised by the Leader of the House.

Today’s debate was exceptional in the intensity with which all parties wished to secure a vote on their own proposition. It took decisions that were intended to allow the House the widest range of propositions on which to express a view. I wanted to do the best, and it was my wish to do the best, by every Member of this House. I take very seriously—[Interruption.] No, the danger—that is why I wanted everybody to be able to express their views. I am very, very concerned about the security of all Members. [Interruption.] I was very concerned, I am still concerned, and that is why the meetings I have had today were about the security of Members, their families and the people involved.

I have to say that I regret how it has ended up. It was not my intention. I wanted to ensure that all could express their views and all sides of the House could vote. As it was, in particular, the SNP was ultimately unable to vote on its proposition. I regret with sadness that it has ended up in this position. It was never my intention for it to end up like this. I was absolutely convinced that the decision was made with the right intentions. I recognise the strength of feeling of Members on this issue. It is clear that today has not shown the House at its best. I will reflect on my part in that, and of course I recommit myself to ensuring that all Members of this House are treated fairly.

I did not want it to have ended like this. I want to say to the House that I will meet with all the key players of each party. I think it is right that I meet with each one. [Interruption.] To correct that, I have not met with Sue Gray—I did not bump into her today; I am offended by that comment, and I think the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes) would like to withdraw it. That is the danger; the House has ended up with speculation over what is not factual. I am honest to this House, I am true to this House, and I believe in all Members of this House. I have tried to do what I thought was the right thing for all sides of this House. It is regrettable, and I apologise for a decision that did not end up in the place that I wished.

I say now that I will meet all the—[Interruption.] Just be quiet, please. I will meet with the leaders and the Chief Whips. Let us have a discussion on what is the best way forward. I say again that I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret, and I apologise for, how it has ended up. I do take responsibility for my actions, and that is why I want to meet the key players who have been involved.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I thank you for coming to the House, for saying you will reflect on what has happened today, and for offering your apologies and to meet with Members of this House. You are our Speaker and we wish you to defend the rights of all Members of this House. I thank you for recommitting yourself to those responsibilities today and for coming to the Floor of the House.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 8th February 2024

(2 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by thanking my right hon. Friend and other colleagues for all the work they have done on the programme board? The new governance structure—I hope Mr Speaker would concur—has enabled us to make good progress on getting a proper grip of what needs to happen to this building and the activity and costs associated with that. We will bring forward further news to the House shortly on where we are with the plans and the programme, but that should not get in the way of concurrent activity. He will know there are some early projects that we think we can get on with that are perfectly within the boundaries of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019, and we should get on and do them. I hope that the House will welcome a more pragmatic approach to taking care of this important UNESCO heritage site.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that important question. While our legislation and the things that arm’s length bodies use need to be legally accurate, it is important that people can use language and words such as “mother” and “father”. Actually, that is not only the right thing to do but what the guidance they operate under says they should do. May I ask him to let my office have the details of that case? In addition to perhaps having a debate—he will know how to apply for one in the usual way—I could follow that up for him with relevant arm’s length body.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing two full weeks’ business. That is welcome.

Last week, we had to pull a debate due to shortage of time. That was understandable, given the importance of the Government business tabled for that day, but the sad point from our perspective is that unless we are allocated time other than on Thursdays for Back-Bench debates, we will probably have no further time to allocate in the Chamber before the Easter recess. Monday 26 February might fit the bill, since a general debate has been announced for that day. We are of course open for applications, particularly for business in Westminster Hall.

I know this has been mentioned, but could the Leader of the House give an indication of the progress made on bringing forward legislation for the appointment of the football regulator? I have a particular interest in that. Television’s impact on travelling football fans is worsening, with Newcastle United fans alone—I am one of them—having had inconvenient and almost unworkable away-game fixtures imposed on them no fewer than eight times this season. We have had away kick-off times of 8 pm on new year’s day, 5.30 pm in Brighton and Bournemouth—this is when travelling from the north-east of England—and Saturday night kick-offs in London at 8 pm on two occasions and 7 pm on one occasion. Those times makes it unworkable for people to get back from those fixtures on public transport, and it is happening on a much more regular basis. The football regulator is much needed, and I am sure that is something that it would like to focus on.

Points of Order

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 1st February 2024

(3 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman, and I understand his disappointment. I hope there will be a good amount of time for Backbench Business debates. The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who is sitting next to the hon. Gentleman, will know that I am keen to accommodate and give time for these important debates and to support the innovation that is the Backbench Business Committee.

It will be for the House to decide the length of time it takes on these two statutory instruments. Yesterday, there was considerable representation for more time to be given, and for the House to have a mechanism to allow the SIs to be taken individually. The Government listened, and on this important matter we think it is important that the House has that time.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The only thing I can add is that the hon. Gentleman is sitting next the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who I am sure will offer a very sympathetic ear and, I hope, could schedule more time for that very important issue.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 25th January 2024

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank all colleagues who will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day this week and, in particular, those taking part in the debate later. Clearly, it has additional significance this year.

I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to Lord John Tomlinson, and I thank her for her tribute. I also send my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Sir Graham Bright, the former Member for Luton East and for Luton South. He served this House and his constituents for 18 years, and this included being John Major’s Parliamentary Private Secretary. He is perhaps best known for his private Member’s Bill that became the Video Recordings Act 1984, which required all commercial video recordings offered for sale or hire within the UK to carry a classification. Legend has it that during the passage of the Bill he had to explain to the Prime Minister of the day what particular acts performed on camera warranted particular ratings. Given that that Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher, that alone would have warranted his knighthood. Many colleagues have spoken very fondly of him over the past few days, and he will be much missed.

Let me also thank two delegations to Parliament this week: the families of Liri Elbag, Eliya Cohen, Idan Shtivi, and Ziv and Gali Berman, who are five of the many hostages still held in Gaza—we must not rest until they are all home—and the Ukrainian delegation, to whom I conveyed our deepest respect and solidarity for all they are doing to protect our freedom. I wish President Zelensky, “Z dnem narodzhennya” and all in the House a happy Burns night.

Let me turn to the hon. Lady’s points. She spoke about the work the House of Commons Commission, on which we both serve, has been doing on the exclusion of Members of Parliament who are considered to be a risk to others on the estate. She will know, because she is on the Commission, that we agree with the proposal that has been brought forward. We were waiting for a motion to be brought to us by the House. That happened late last week, and we will shortly table that motion for Members to see and then bring it forward.

The hon. Lady mentioned the work that the Procedure Committee has done on Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary. I thank its members for their work and the hon. Lady for the evidence she gave to that inquiry. We have received that report this week and will shortly be responding to it. I hear her plea to act before next Wednesday, but she should have said next Tuesday, because that is when the next FCDO questions are.

I join in what the hon. Lady says about the work that the Jo Cox Foundation has done through the Commission. It is very important that we protect democracy. We all know that democracy is under attack, and civility in politics is incredibly important, as was demonstrated, as she said, in the form of the late Sir Tony Lloyd.

In that spirit of the Commission’s recommendations, let me deal with the charges that the hon. Lady has made against our record and that Labour has levelled against our Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister is a man whose migrant parents made sacrifices to ensure that he could have a good start in life. He worked hard to make the best use of every opportunity he was afforded—he studied hard, he pushed himself. He had many career options, but he chose a life in public service representing God’s own country. He protected this nation and livelihoods from the greatest financial and health crisis since the second world war. He has risen through hard work, courage and determination to be this country’s first British-Asian Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has shown global leadership on many challenges facing this country. He is a wonderful dad. He gives quietly to charities. He runs for his local hospice. He is a cricket fanatic. He still attends home games at the football club he supports, despite being Prime Minister and despite it being Southampton. He is a shareholder in three community pubs and patron of the Leyburn brass band. He does not just get Britain; he represents the best of Great Britain—the greatest things we have to offer the world, including our values of hard work, enterprise, taking personal responsibility and helping others.

He is in no way confused about where his duty lies. People will not find him taxing education or denying others the opportunities he has had; voting against strengthening our borders; siding with militant trade unions against the public; compromising our energy security or nuclear deterrent; opposing the deportation of foreign criminals; scratching his head about the monarchy; ducking difficult issues; or supporting the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). If the Leader of the Opposition is a weathervane, our Prime Minister is a signpost. He knows what he stands for, he knows where the country needs to go, he has a plan to get us there and that plan is working.

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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That brings me to a slightly difficult problem. Bob Blackman is meant to be representing the Backbench Business Committee, to tell us about its business, but unfortunately he is not here, so I now call the spokesperson for the Scottish National party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make a statement next week on the instructions to the advocate for his Department at the Holocaust Memorial Bill Select Committee? Yesterday, on a number of occasions, the lead advocate said that the design had not been awarded to Sir David Adjaye, or that he was not the architect.

I refer the Leader of the House to the press notice on 24 October 2017, in which the Department and the Cabinet Office said that Sir David and his team would design the memorial; the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir Sajid Javid), and the Mayor of London congratulated Sir David; and Sir David was quoted as saying that it was “architecture as emotion”.

I believe that the advocate may have inadvertently told the Committee things that are clearly contradicted by the facts six years ago, and by every other quotation until Sir David Adjaye became a name that could not be mentioned.

Will the Leader of the House please ask the Secretary of State to consider making a statement to correct what was said to the Committee yesterday, and perhaps acknowledge the four holocaust survivors who gave evidence, and look at what they said?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 18th January 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The whole House will soon have an opportunity to pay tribute to our late colleague Tony Lloyd. People may not know, and the hon. Lady may not have had an opportunity to do that, so I thank her for her tribute today. Let me place on record my deepest sympathies for all who loved him. The tributes paid to him already illustrate his gentle and kind nature, and the breadth and depth of his public service. As the hon. Lady testified, he was still doing that right up until the end.

I also thank the families of those held hostage by Hamas for again coming to Parliament this week to talk about their loved ones. We will all keep them at the forefront of our minds and do all we can to bring them home. I remind the House that Kfir Bibas turns one today in captivity. I also wish both His Majesty the King and Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales a speedy recovery.

I thank the hon. Lady for again raising the important issue of infected blood. This session follows Cabinet Office questions, in which a number of things were placed on record both by the Paymaster General and by Members. I again remind the House that the compensation study was established acknowledging the moral case for compensation, that the study should be concurrent to the inquiry, and that the inquiry and the study could make reference to each other. The reason for that was to ensure that we could arrive as swiftly as possible at a compensation package for all those affected by this appalling scandal. I do not disagree with any hon. Member who believes that we should not have to wait.

As the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), said in the Cabinet Office questions, the Government now have all the information to arrive at a compensation scheme in those inquiries, which is why the Paymaster General is making progress on exactly that. We are acutely aware of that moral imperative and what both the study and the inquiry have said on this matter so far. This House has also been clear in its desire to see that appalling scandal resolved quickly. I refer the hon. Lady to what the Paymaster General just said at the Dispatch Box with regard to legislation, but I am kept regularly informed of progress that he, the Treasury and other Departments are making on this matter. I expect more news on that important point in the coming weeks.

The hon. Lady referred to my article, and I thank her for the publicity. I argued that we should ensure that the consumer is king again. We have some challenging new monopolies—the natural monopolies of water companies —and the online giants, and we need to ensure that the customer is king. That is what the Government have been doing, through our legislation to improve competition and the work we are taking forward with regulators on a whole raft of things, from energy bills to other consumer issues. We can do because we have a plan. We have a plan on all the issues facing the public.

I expect praise from those on my own Benches, but I was much encouraged at the praise we heard yesterday from the Opposition Benches. One Labour Member, the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson), was urging a focus on reducing the backlog and ending hotel use. She said:

“The Conservatives started this work by employing some temporary new officers and it started to work”.

She went on:

“The Tories have also started smashing the gangs through the work they are doing in France.”—[Official Report, 17 January 2023; Vol. 743, c. 972.]

She was right. On that priority, she could have added that crossings are down by 36% this year, the Albanian returns scheme has seen a 93% fall in arrivals, and we have dismantled, alongside the French, 82 organised criminal gangs. We are making progress on that and other areas. The health statistics announced show that the waiting list figures the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) mentioned are coming down. These are not easy problems, particularly because of the recovery from the pandemic and the global situation on prices and supply chains, but we have a plan and we are methodically working through it with zero assistance from the Labour party.

On any issue and priority, we are sticking to that plan. The reason we can do that and are not being blown off course is that we have some principles backing it up. Unlike the Labour party, we understand our duty to the people of this country, whether that is setting up inquiries into infected blood and the Horizon scandal, or on the people’s priorities, which are also the Prime Minister’s five top priorities. We have never wavered in our duty to the people of this country. We have never wavered in our support to protect our country’s borders and protect the defence of the realm, unlike the hon. Lady’s party which has six current shadow Cabinet members who voted against our continuous at-sea deterrent. We are working to strengthen our borders and stop the boats. The Labour party has voted consistently against that legislation. We believe in supporting minimum service standards on vital public health services, including health and transport. Labour has opposed that. And we have taken tough decisions on helping the economy, including controlling borrowing, which is why inflation is down by 60% since October and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts inflation falling to 2.8% this year. Labour’s stated policy on fiscal rules and spending means that it will have to raise taxes if it wants to stick to those fiscal rules, but it has not said what and when.

On all those things, we have a plan and it is working. We are going to stick to it, despite what the Labour party is doing. Labour has no plan, just a big fat bill for taxpayers.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I presume that the Father of the House is asking for a debate on the matter as well.

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for putting on record his beautiful tribute to Tony Lloyd. It would be wonderful if such tributes could also be heard in Strasbourg.

My hon. Friend is right that it is vital that commissioners are held to account. Our NHS will not function properly without accountability and choice. The former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Steve Barclay), undertook work on patient outcomes data and the quality of commissioning in each board and across the UK, which will help to drive accountability. Now that we have that data, I am sure it will make for a very interesting debate. My hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate, and he may also wish to raise this matter with the Secretary of State on 23 January.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Priorities, of course.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very helpful advert to all Members for forthcoming debates. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also heard the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about the bridge and, again, I will ask the Department for Transport to lean in.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 11th January 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Happy new year to you, Mr Speaker, and to all colleagues. This week, I was delighted to welcome holocaust survivor Mala Tribich to the Commons, where she viewed the exhibition in Portcullis House. I encourage all Members to see it.

I am sure that I speak for the whole House in saying that our thoughts remain with the hostages still kept captive in Gaza—next week sees us pass the 100th day since they were taken—just as our thoughts remain with all the innocent people caught up in those events.

May I also give a shout out to the Royal Navy’s rowing team, HMS Oardacious, who are rowing across the Atlantic for mental health support? With just 500 nautical miles to go, they may land before next week’s business questions, and they are currently 100 miles ahead of the next team.

I turn to the substantive issue that the hon. Lady raised: the Post Office scandal. She will know about the existing legislation announced on 29 November, but it is to be welcomed that we are now taking unprecedented steps to quash convictions. That work is well under way, and we want to bring it to the House swiftly. The House will be aware of the risks outlined by the Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), but I think we will find them necessary.

While the inquiry will look at some of the issues raised in this place, the hon. Lady is right that we should reflect now on what we could learn, and in particular what we should conclude about the powers given to arm’s length bodies of the state and what operational independence should mean for those organisations. Subsequent Conservative Administrations have been right in gripping and trying to resolve some difficult and long-running issues, from Windrush to the apology given by the noble Lord Cameron to the Hillsborough families, the apology given by the current Prime Minister to former members of our armed forces who had been shamed and driven out of service for being gay, and the 2017 infected blood inquiry and the later compensation study, which will make some amends for the decades of injustice and suffering that those people have endured. I am optimistic that we will reach some justice for those affected this year; I know that the Paymaster General is working hard to do that.

We were right to have a full public inquiry into the Horizon Post Office scandal, and we have rightly heard much about that this week, including in statements and urgent questions. I pay tribute to all right hon. and hon. Members and to the noble Lord Arbuthnot for the work they have done on this issue. I also pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton. In 2021, as a Back Bencher, he was fighting hard for sub-postmasters, and he has diligently pursued this issue in his ministerial role. That is his record on this issue and on much else, too. I remind the House that when he was chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking, he helped people whose businesses had been deliberately and cynically destroyed by their lenders, winning compensation from Lloyds, HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. He is a very good man, and I know that he will bring forward legislation on this issue quickly.

The hon. Lady mentioned NHS performance data. Monthly performance data shows that in November overall waiting lists fell by more than 95,000 from October, down to 7.6 million. There were also 60,000 fewer patients waiting for care in November than in the previous month, and 112,000 fewer than in September. We have some difficult issues to deal with post pandemic, but the Prime Minister’s plan is working, and the new Secretary of State for Health is bringing forward further measures. As the hon. Lady will know, we have stood up an enormous number of new services and new healthcare professionals as well as immense numbers of new diagnostic centres, and we are vastly increasing the number of operations that can take place.

I do not wish to take any lectures from the hon. Lady on performance in the NHS. I point her to what Labour is doing in Wales, where I think the current situation in terms of waiting lists is four times worse than in England. Nor will I take any lessons on tax from a party that is clobbering British citizens where it is in power. It is doubling rates in Wales, and its London Mayor is clobbering hard-working people and charities with the ultra low emission zone. He has just capitulated to the militant trade unions on transport but does not know where to find the money to do that. Labour is soft on crime; the Met’s £70 million black hole in its budget demonstrates that. Time and again, where Labour is in power, it shows that it is not on the side of the British people.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend rightly mentioned the holocaust exhibition, and you, Mr Speaker, will lead the holocaust service in a few days’ time. Recently, I met holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who said that the proposed memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens was too small for its purpose and too large for the park.

The hybrid Committee will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Will my right hon. Friend consider talking to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to see whether they could put up scaffolding on a temporary basis to show the amount of space taken by the box of the so-called learning centre, and perhaps some plywood boards to illustrate the 23 fins that are supposed to be there? Then, we could go round the outside of the park to see whether it is visible, and see from inside how much damage it does to that well-loved park.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I know that my hon. Friend continues to press on this particular project. He will know that I am limited in what I can do to assist him, but I will write to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make sure that he has heard, again, what my hon. Friend has said.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokes- person.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend both for his question and for the diligent work he and his colleagues have done in raising the profile and shining a spotlight on the incredible heritage of crafts and skills that we ought to celebrate retaining and to educate others about. I shall certainly write to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Given that my right hon. Friend has just missed departmental questions today, I will ask her to inform him about the timetable.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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Mr Speaker, I wish you and Members across the House a very happy new year.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing the Backbench Business for next Thursday. I give her advance notice that we have a heavily subscribed application for a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday 25 January, if we are allocated the time. Holocaust Memorial Day itself is on 27 January.

The Backbench Business Committee would very much welcome applications for debate slots in Westminster Hall. We can secure for Members debate slots on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. While we have a glut of applications for the Chamber, we very much welcome applications for Westminster Hall debates to be submitted as soon as possible. I am also glad to report that application forms for Backbench Business debates can now be attained from the Vote Office, so Members can now just pick up a form, fill it in and submit it.

On a local issue for my constituency, the Tyne bridge between Gateshead and Newcastle has been earmarked for funding from the Department for Transport to give it a much-needed repair job and upgrade. I am afraid, though, that the money has been promised but has not been forthcoming, and the work very much needs to start as soon as possible. Indeed, if we do not get the work done, it will not be sound, solid and pristine for its anniversary in four years’ time. Will the Leader of the House check what is happening with the Department for Transport and see whether the funds can be released so that we can get on with the work?

Points of Order

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 9th January 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I have had no indication from the Government that the Secretary of State intends to make a statement on this matter, but I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, and I am sure he will pursue it in other ways. No doubt, if nothing is forthcoming, it might need an urgent question—that is a possible suggestion.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. For the convenience of the House, it may assist right hon. and hon. Members if I give some advance notice of Thursday’s business statement.

The business for the week commencing 15 January will include:

Monday 15 January—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill.

Tuesday 16 January—Committee of the whole House on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill (day 1).

Wednesday 17 January—Committee of the whole House on the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill (day 2).

I will announce the business statement on Thursday in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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While that was not a point of order for the Chair, I am sure the House will have heard the announcement by the Leader of the House with great interest. I call the shadow Leader of the House.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is this not just another example of this Government making it up as they go along, with no real plan, scrabbling around and trying to make something of this failed, unworkable plan? We have had at least three business statements or questions since the Bill first began to be timetabled. Would you not expect, Mr Speaker, such an announcement to be made in a business statement in the usual way?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 14th December 2023

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I also take the opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year, especially all the staff who work on and off the estate to help us do our jobs and keep us safe, and all those who will be working over the festive period to serve our nation and their communities? 2023 has been a hard year. The British people have faced many challenges, and I am proud of their stoicism and grit in getting through it. Thanks to them and their efforts, the economy is turning a corner and inflation is coming down. Despite the challenges, we have stood by our allies, in particular Ukraine. We have taken care of each other, and we have crowned our new monarch. I wish everyone a peaceful and restorative Christmas, with good wishes and hope for the new year.

Let me start with the hon. Lady’s final point about young Liam. I deeply regret her choosing to paint Conservative Members as uncaring and non-empathetic. She knows that is not the case. Indeed, I pay tribute to one of our colleagues, who I think is in The Telegraph this morning, who made heroic efforts to prevent harm from being done to a young man who was homeless on London’s streets.

I can give the hon. Lady that assurance on infected blood, and I am expecting the House to be updated on that important matter by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. She is right that the Minister with responsibility for disabilities is important, and I am sure that that reshuffle announcement will be made imminently. I also remind the House that every Department has a disability lead in place. I echo the hon. Lady’s thanks to all Commission members for the work done on risk-based exclusion. I think Mr Speaker has written to Members today, and we will of course bring a motion to the House early in the new year. I will also ensure that Members are kept up to date with the ongoing and tragic situation in Gaza over the festive period. I know, as I hope do all Members, that FCDO consular services are there 24 hours a day for any hon. Members who have constituents who need assistance.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of our further legislation to stop the boats. I always find it amusing that Labour Members are keen to see this legislation brought forward so that they can stop it. They say that they have changed, but they have not, and I am afraid their actions speak louder than words. They talk tough on borders, but they have voted every time against our measures to strengthen them. They talk about equality while not paying women a fair wage. They talk about a charter for workers while siding with strikers and eco-zealots who prevent them from getting to work. They talk of fiscal responsibility, but would borrow a further £28 billion more. They talk of opportunity, but would tax education and halve apprenticeships. The hon. Lady has talked empathetically on the cost of living, yet is very happy to clobber hard-working people who can least afford it with higher taxes, the ultra low emission zone and lower tax allowances. They talk of hope, but they would bring despair, as many in Wales are now having to endure. I put on record my thanks to Mark Drakeford for his service, but I remind people of Labour’s record in Wales.

It is a good job that the nativity did not take place in Labour-run Wales. Mary and Joseph would have been clobbered for an overnight stay levy. She would have had poor maternity services. The shepherds would not have been able to take the time off to bear witness due to cuts in the rural affairs budget, and the three wise men would have arrived post-Epiphany due to the blanket 20 mph speed limit and the poor condition of the road network. Do not fall for what Labour says; look at what it does when in power. Not all men who wear red and promise free gifts are to be trusted. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I am not sure that the Leader of the House is responsible for the Labour party. I know that the Father of the House must have told the Member who he has brought into question that he would name her today.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Mr Speaker is always right, and I am not responsible for the scheduling of topics for Opposition day debates. I know that my right hon. Friend will have sent a message today that if that is what Labour is minded to do, he will be there and spoiling for a fight.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the considerable achievements that he and his constituents have secured over the past year. I am reminded of the, very sadly, late Benjamin Zephaniah, who as guest editor on the “Today” programme insisted that it be just about good news. We could all do with that occasionally. My hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the Backbench Business for the first week after the Christmas recess and for the extensive list of recess dates, which we will fill up our diaries with. I mentioned that last week, so it is welcome to get the dates in the bag.

I am afraid to say that I am of such an age that I have been a school governor for 40 years continuously. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I am the chair of governors at a primary school in Gateshead, where 52% of the youngsters are entitled to free school meals. Holiday hunger is not a concept confined to the summer recess. Can we have a statement from the children’s Minister on whether the Government have plans to tackle holiday hunger in the winter break, when cold exacerbates the problem and adds to the misery of hungry children?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 23rd November 2023

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I place on record my thanks for hosting the UK Disability History Month event that took place in your rooms last night, Mr Speaker. We had great speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House about their disabilities and of course the performance of the Music Man Project. I promise you that the video of you dancing Gangnam-style to one of their hits will go with me to my grave.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I owe you one.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for, and join with, the sentiments she expressed about Israel and Gaza. We all hope that some of the hostages are able to be released in the coming days, and our thoughts are with everyone affected by that. It is incredibly important that this House is kept up to date. She will know that the Procedure Committee is looking at that and will shortly make some announcements on how it thinks the Foreign Secretary can best come to answer questions from hon. Members.

This week I met the director of national security and the director of consular and crisis services in the Foreign Office, as well as Home Office officials, on behalf of Members of this House to look at what they can do to support the families of hostages—not just the British nationals, but those who have a connection to the UK—and I know that they are in touch with those hon. Members directly concerned. A lot of that cannot be put in the public domain, for obvious reasons, but they are in touch with hon. Members on Privy Counsellor terms with things that cannot necessarily be put in the public domain.

May I also thank the hon. Lady for what she said about security? It is incredibly important. I refer Members to what I said last week on that point: we should be free in this place to use our judgment and vote accordingly, and we should not face intimidation for doing our duty to this House. Although it is a growing and moving challenge, I am confident that we have the tools to tackle misinformation online. She will know that we have stood up new services in the House of Commons Library, strengthening its ties with Government Departments—particularly the Department for Culture, Media and Sport —as well as with our security agencies.

The hon. Lady mentions the facts relating to the autumn statement and the OBR, and I am happy to remind the House of those facts. Inflation is now at 4.6% and will fall to 2.8%, and at the end of next year, towards 2025, we will be back to 2%. Headline debt is now 94% by end of forecast, down from a predicted 100%. Underlying debt next year is expected to fall to 91.6%, and we are due to meet our fiscal rule of having underlying debt fall as a percentage of GDP by the end of the next financial forecast. We have the second lowest debt in the G7.

The hon. Lady talks about the cost of living. On average, a person on benefits will be £470 better off, pensioners £900 better off, and those on housing allowance £800 better off. The national living wage has gone up. Our total commitment on cost of living measures is now over £104 billion, which includes £3,700 on average toward a person’s energy bills. She will know that the energy price guarantee remains in place until March next year.

On our ambitions to grow the economy, the hon. Lady will also know that we have a strong and resilient economy. That fact is evidenced by our continuing to attract inward investment. I very much welcome Nissan’s announcement of its commitment to continue making the Qashqai and Juke models in Sunderland. Yesterday, we made expensing permanent, as well as other measures to help businesses large and small, particularly on our high streets and in the hospitality sector. We have new investment zones, one of which is in her beloved Greater Manchester.

The hon. Lady mentions Stockton North, which will benefit from £20 million of levelling-up funding for Billingham town centre. With regard to the charge that she makes against the Home Secretary, he denies it and I believe him.

The economy is predicted to grow. We would like it to grow faster, and that is why we are focused on productivity. We have been able to cut tax through the tough decisions that have enabled us to create that headroom. We were able to do what we did during the pandemic, on furlough and other support, only because we paid down Labour’s deficit by 80%. Labour has opposed every measure that we have brought in to balance the books. Labour has blocked every measure to reform welfare in favour of denying people with disabilities the dignity of a pay packet.

Labour has blocked every measure to protect access to public service and cut waiting lists, in favour of militant unions. Labour has blocked every measure to make us more energy secure, in favour of Just Stop Oil. Labour has blocked every measure to raise education standards, and now wishes to tax education and halve apprenticeships. While we have been reducing fuel duty and holding down council tax, Labour put both up by 42% and 104% respectively. Where Labour is now in power, it taxes the lowest paid out of work. The ultra low emission zone has wreaked havoc in London and cost livelihoods. Sadly, I understand that those measures will shortly be coming to Wales.

Labour Members say that they have changed, but their actions past, present and planned for the future say otherwise. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a successful, if lengthy, campaign, and I congratulate him and everyone who has worked on it on their diligence and on never giving up. I do not know about a debate—it sounds like we ought to be having a party to celebrate this. In all seriousness, I know that it means a tremendous amount to the local community. They are known as the crown jewels locally. I understand that some of them are very heavy—if they need a hand carrying them around, I know someone who can help.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he is doing to support his farmers—I know it is a lot. He is a consistent champion for their interests, and he is right to encourage them to stand firm. I am pleased that NFU Sugar and British Sugar are resuming negotiations on next year’s sugar beet price, and I hope they can work together to agree a mutually acceptable deal as soon as possible for the benefit of both growers and processors. My hon. Friend may wish to raise this matter on 7 December with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I agree with the comments that the hon. Lady made about Armistice Day and Remembrance weekend. I thank all Members who took part in events around the country and overseas to commemorate and thank our servicemen and women, and to remember the fallen. I particularly thank the police, who had an incredibly difficult job on their hands in London at the weekend.

It is a gift that every one of us in this place can raise issues in debates via amendments and other devices. As a Member and as Leader of the House, I will always defend that right, but it does not absolve us from thinking through the consequences of one course of action over another. The debate last night showed the House, including its two main parties and the bulk of Members, united in its support for Israel’s duty to protect her people, an end to suffering for all civilians and a long-term peaceful solution.

Since the vote last night, I know some Members have come under increased stress. No matter which way people voted, it will have been a considered decision. No matter whether people agree with them or not, it is their duty to exercise their own judgment. Today, all Members should think about what they can do to defuse such threats made against our colleagues in this place.

I thank Mr Speaker for his care in ensuring we can go about our business and do our duties. I thank the families of those held hostage by Hamas for their time coming into Parliament this week to talk to parliamentarians. I know I speak for all here when I say that we will do all in our power to bring them home.

Turning to the questions raised by the shadow Leader of the House, her first point was about Rwanda. She will expect me to say that further business will be announced in the usual way, but as she will have heard from the Prime Minister, we want to introduce this legislation swiftly. It is part of a plan of action that he has set out and that has been worked on by the Home Office and other Departments, together with the largest ever small boats deal with France; a new agreement with Albania, which has already returned nearly 5,000 people in the last 10 months and cut Albanian small boat arrivals by more than 90%; an almost 70% increase in the number of illegal working raids; a tripling in the number of asylum decisions since the start of the year; a plan to close the first 50 asylum hotels; and the legislation that we have brought forward.

There are many points of difference, but one key difference is that we believe there must be a deterrent element to our response. The hon. Lady’s party voted 70 times against the legislation that we have brought forward and Opposition Members also supported blocking the deportation of foreign criminals. The people of this country want our borders to be protected and controlled. They want to ensure that we are free and able to help those we wish to and have the greatest obligation to. Under the last Labour Government, the mode of illegal travel here was largely haulage. We ended that. Brexit has also given us many more options to shape who comes here legally.

We must end the scourge of these appalling people-traffickers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman), assisted by my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) and others, have helped us thus far, and I thank them for all the work that they have been doing. It has been difficult work. There is more to do, but we are a step closer to the deterrent that we seek. I urge the shadow Leader of the House to support us in our efforts. We will introduce legislation; it is quite normal, as she knows, to do that even if it is not included in the King’s Speech. There are many potential situations for that to arise on a number of issues facing Parliament in this Session.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of the new Foreign Secretary, a person who has done a tremendous amount on the last topic that she raised—combating illegal migration —through his work with Professor Paul Collier and the work that he has done on conflict states. He was ahead of the curve on that issue, and I think that he will make an excellent Foreign Secretary. She is right that the House must be able to hold him to account. This is not an unusual situation; it has happened before with the noble Lords Mandelson, Adonis, Frost, Morgan and I think others.

The hon. Lady should be reassured that Mr Speaker has taken advice on the matter. My understanding is that the Procedure Committee will be consulted on the best way forward. She alluded to some of the options that may be required of the new Foreign Secretary, who I know will want to be accountable to this House. There are very important matters in front of us. Next year will be an unprecedented year for elections across the world, with significant consequences for this nation and an ever- increasing set of complex issues that I know all hon. Members will want to question the Foreign Secretary on. She has my assurance in that respect. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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The House and my right hon. Friend will know of my personal and political interest in residential leasehold reform. When might the leasehold and freehold reform Bill come to the House, and will she join me in giving more publicity to the consultation, “Modern leasehold: restricting rents on existing leases”, which started a week ago and will last for another five weeks? The ground rent issue affects up to 6 million households. Most people do not know that the Government are considering five alternatives for restricting it. Will she help to publicise that, and say when the Bill might be introduced so that the House can consider the issue?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend, who is very experienced, has already provided a solution to one part of his question by getting that on the record and advertising it to all hon. Members. I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State has heard of his particular interest. He will not be surprised to hear me say that further business will be announced in the usual way, but I shall endeavour to ensure that he is kept informed by the Department of progress on the Bill.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, may I place on the record—on behalf of everyone in this place, I am sure—our thanks to my right hon. Friend for all the work she did in her former Department? I know she was incredibly passionate about that work, going right back to when she was a junior Minister in that Department, and she should be very proud of the many things she enabled to happen on her double watch. I thank her for raising this issue in her constituency, which I know she is very concerned about. The Secretary of State has made it a priority and is giving it a lot more attention and focus, and I shall make sure that she is aware of my right hon. Friend’s particular interest.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call and congratulate the unopposed Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. I have had the privilege of being in that role since June 2015, although I have a funny feeling this will be my last term in it, for a whole range of different reasons—[Hon. Members: “No!”] Well, the holder has to be a member of the Opposition. As we speak, the Committee cannot yet meet, but I understand that all political parties have made or are making nominations to the Committee of Selection. As soon as it agrees the nominations, the Backbench Business Committee can get up and running again. I hope that the first meeting can take place as soon as Tuesday 28 November. If it can happen before then, we certainly will try to ensure that it does. I understand from the Clerks that there is already a queue of applications to be presented to the Committee; we will try to get that all together as soon as possible.

Bus drivers and other staff employed by Go North East are on indefinite strike in a pay dispute. They seek pay parity with their company colleagues in the north-west region. The strike leaves constituents almost totally stranded and unable to get to work, places of study, hospitals and shops. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport about his intentions to bring an end to this dire paralysis in my Gateshead constituency and across the wider north-east region? Go North East provides bus services to a large part of the north-east region, and I am afraid to say it is no go at the moment.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 9th November 2023

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for the work he is doing. He raises an important point, and if he were to apply for a debate, I am sure it would be well attended. The Department of Health and Social Care invests about £1 billion a year in research through the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and that institution welcomes funding applications on any aspect of health research. Its expenditure on cancer research in the last financial year was over £100 million. I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important matter, and I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to what he has said.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

He should know.

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

Points of Order

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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You are absolutely right that it would not be for me under the normal rules, although I recognise the importance of a major escalation and what could happen in the middle east. You are correct that it would be for the Government—not for me, unfortunately—to recall the House. I will work through the usual channels to try to ensure that, quite rightly, we look to see what can be done in what would be special circumstances, because obviously the House will have prorogued. I do not lose sight of what you have said, and I take it on board. I will work with others behind the scenes to see how we would manage such a situation.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I can assure the House that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, my office, and other Departments across Whitehall are very aware that this House will want to be kept updated about the ongoing situation. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have constituents directly affected, and we are working with the House of Commons Library to ensure that people are updated about the situation during the recess.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Okay, thank you.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 19th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work he is doing at what must be a very worrying time for his constituents who are affected. He will know that the Government are currently considering the recommendations in the final report from my noble Friend Lord Best’s working group on the regulation of property agents. Of course, the Financial Conduct Authority currently has a limited role, and although we are not seeking to expand its role, we want to ensure that it can be a more innovative, assertive and adaptive regulator.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to support her constituent, and to ensure that those affected and infected by that appalling scandal get justice swiftly. If she secured a debate on this issue, it would be most welcome and well attended by many across the House. I have said this before, but we should recognise that even though we are talking about a small number of individuals as a percentage of the population, this issue is relevant to everyone in this country. What happened to those individuals could have happened to anyone in this country, and how we respond to that is important. That is why I am pleased that this Government have set up the inquiry, why I set up a compensation study to run concurrently with the inquiry, and why we must ensure that we press forward with getting those people some recompense for all they have suffered.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I am grateful, Mr Speaker. May I ask you and the Leader of the House to help us by helping to facilitate the re-establishment of the Backbench Business Committee as soon as possible after the King’s Speech in the new parliamentary Session? I will be writing to the Leader of the House with a list of as yet unaired debates from this Session which might be held prior to the re-establishment of the Committee in the new Session. We have applications for debates in this Chamber and in Westminster Hall on subjects such as protection for children with allergies, heritage pubs, floating offshore wind generation, knife crime, and several others.

I declare an interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on rail in the north. Yesterday I had a meeting with the Rail Industry Association’s northern section, and we were reflecting on what the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission said yesterday in urging the Government not to sell off too quickly land acquisitions for High-Speed 2 on cancelled northern routes. Those land acquisitions may well facilitate other schemes in the northern regions, and we hope that the Government would not sell those assets off too quickly.

Finally, as part of the crisis in Israel, Palestine and Gaza, a number of families in my constituency have been affected. Prior to the horrific Hamas attacks was the Jewish festival of Sukkot. A number of families from my Orthodox Haredi Jewish community were in Israel celebrating Sukkot and then became stranded and could not get home. Some have had to pay eye-watering sums to travel home by alternative means, because lots of flights were cancelled. Will the Leader of the House help me and those who have had to pay out sometimes whole-life savings to get their families of six or seven back home from Israel?

Retirement of the Clerk of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 12th September 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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I beg to move,

That Mr Speaker be requested to convey to Sir John Benger KCB, on his retirement from the office of Clerk of the House, this House’s gratitude for his long and distinguished service, for his wise contribution to the development of the procedure of the House during testing times and in the face of the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic, for his engaged and inclusive leadership and his professionalism in the discharge of his duties as head of the House Administration, and for the courteous and helpful advice always given to individual honourable Members.

It is a real pleasure to move the motion to give the House the opportunity to pay tribute to Sir John, who leaves this place on 30 September to take up the role of master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that Sir John has been an outstanding Clerk and has given an incredible level of service to the House of Commons, not just in this Chamber but throughout the House and the estate—a service spanning 37 years.

Sir John has been Clerk to a number of the busiest and most high-profile Select Committees, including Public Accounts, Treasury and Health. He stayed at the latter Committee for six years while it undertook a number of landmark inquiries on tobacco, the pharmaceutical industries and obesity. He has also worked in a number of procedural teams, including the Public Bill Office and the Table Office, as well as being director of service delivery in the department for information services between 2010 and 2015.

Sir John was appointed the 51st Clerk of the House of Commons in February 2019 following the formal approval of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In the four years of service since, he has worked with five Leaders of the House: my right hon. Friends the Members for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom), for Central Devon (Mel Stride), for North East Somerset (Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg) and for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), as well as myself. He knows parliamentary procedure better than almost anyone, and he knows that there is a right and a wrong way to adhere to protocol, but he is also a pragmatist and knows how to help Members navigate procedure when practices need to evolve.

That pragmatism and adaptability were exceedingly valuable as Sir John faced a challenge that none of his predecessors had ever encountered: covid-19 presented incredible difficulties to the business of this House. I think we can now safely say that the House Administration, led by Sir John, rose to meet those challenges with great speed and efficiency. It would have been unthinkable before 2020 but, for the first time, right hon. and hon. Members could make contributions to debates virtually. On 22 April 2020, just a month after the country had locked down, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) asked the first remote question during Welsh questions. There were also experiments with a number of voting styles before the pass reader voting system that we have was settled on.

Sir John has given so much of himself to this House. I thank him, on behalf of us all, for his service and for the care that he has shown us all, as evidenced in the letter that you just read out, Mr Speaker. I do not think that I could have thought any more of him, but having learned that he has given a home to two moggies, I hold him in even greater esteem. I wish him all the best in his new career. I commend the motion to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Leader of the House, whom I welcome to her new position.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 20th July 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me put on the record my good wishes to the Lionesses for their first match on Saturday.

Of course, after hearing the tragic news today, our thoughts are with all those caught up in the Auckland shooting.

May I also mention our pride at what our nation has done to speed up new solutions to tackling dementia, following the announcement of a future new drug this week? With the 2013 G8 dementia push by David Cameron, which led to the World Dementia Council, the 2015 joint dementia research platform and the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, our 2019 funding commitments and the establishment of the Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission, our nation and this Government have done more than any other to tackle this issue, and I think we should all take great pride in that.

Turning to the issues raised by the shadow Leader of the House, regarding the report on the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), she will know that he has a right of appeal. That runs out at the end of today, so we are not able to do anything until the House returns from recess. As she knows, I do not control the timetable for that; it is controlled by the Standards Committee when it publishes its report. That is the process. As a member of the Commission, she knows what work we have been doing, and I am grateful to her for acknowledging on the record my commitment to the scheme to ensure that everyone who works on the estate is properly protected and we have good safeguarding policies in place. As soon as we have a settled scheme, we will bring forward the debate on it.

I, too, thank all colleagues and the staff of the House for the work they have done. We have achieved a tremendous amount. In the last nine months, we have introduced 16 Bills in addition to reintroducing the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill. Ten Government Bills have reached Royal Assent, with more to follow shortly. We have published two draft Bills, which are undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny—the Media Bill and the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill—and 13 private Member’s Bills have reached Royal Assent, with three more to follow shortly.

I thank all colleagues for helping with the legislative agenda to support delivery, including of the Prime Minister’s five priorities—the things that matter the most to the people of this country—as we recover from the pandemic and global shocks. In stark contrast to the picture painted by the shadow Leader of the House, we are delivering. We are tackling debt, halving inflation and growing our economy. We are taking responsible decisions to get debt falling, helping households with the cost of living and addressing inflation through measures including energy bill support, fuel duty cuts and increasing competition.

Yesterday, we had better than expected falling inflation figures; today, we have seen average mortgage rates falling for the first time in many months. We are controlling spending and increasing public sector productivity. The Office for Budget Responsibility said that measures in the Budget caused it to revise its growth forecast up; we have received the largest ever upward forecast of the G7 this year, and our long-term growth forecasts are stronger than those for Germany, France and Italy.

We are also working to cut waiting lists. We are creating 160 new diagnostic centres, 108 of which are already open. We are delivering 4 million additional scans and tests, 100 new operating theatres delivering 2 million more operations by the next financial year, and over 12,000 more nurses than a year ago and 5,000 more doctors—we have smashed our manifesto commitments on recruitment. New digital health checks are preventing strokes and heart attacks. Record funding will deliver 9 million more procedures over the next three years, a 30% increase in elective activity and 5,000 more hospital beds. We are releasing 10 million more doctor’s appointments through our Pharmacy First service.

Finally, we are stopping the boats. We have taken new powers to protect our border, even though the Labour party voted to dismantle the Bill more than 70 times. We have 700 more staff working in immigration enforcement and we have increased the number of caseworkers dealing with the backlog. Since the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was passed, 653 people have been arrested, leading to convictions totalling over 170 years of jail time. Home Office initial asylum decisions are up 30% on last year, and small boats arrivals are down 10%. Some 11,000 small boat crossings have been thwarted, and illegal working enforcement visits are up 50%.

On top of all that, this week we concluded our accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and launched Great British Nuclear, and after business questions, we will have a statement on £4 billion of investment in a new gigafactory. We continue to work on the things that matter to the people of this country. These are tough times, but we are delivering, and that is what we will be judged on, and in these tough times, I am glad that it is my party at the helm.

I can confirm that the state opening of Parliament will take place on 7 November. I wish everyone a happy recess. Finally: vote Purbrick, Tuckwell and Holmes!

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Sir Peter Bottomley, the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yesterday, thanks to my right hon. Friend and Team Lewis, I was able to meet Les Wateridge, who, as many will know, spent decades keeping the streets of Westminster clear, especially around Victoria Tower Gardens. The day before, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch came to Parliament. She is 98. She was in the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz, and then survived Bergen-Belsen. May I invite the Government, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the leaders of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation to meet Anita, and hear her views on why the proposed memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens is too large for the gardens, and too small to be a proper memorial to those who died while she was incarcerated?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- Hansard - -

I know that my hon. Friend cares very deeply about this issue and the memorial, as do all Members of the House, despite their different views. As we are going into recess, there will not be an opportunity for him to question either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on this matter, so I shall make sure that they hear of his invitation, and I shall write to them on his behalf.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 29th June 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter and for his contribution to the debate yesterday. He will know that I take these matters very seriously. We have stood up some additional training for the parliamentary teams and Clerks in Government Departments. We—my noble Friend Lord True and I—have also brought all the permanent secretaries over to Parliament and told them exactly what Members need to conduct their business well. He will know that I have also conducted, with the Commission, a survey of all Members to see what more we can do to ensure that they can do their job in the most effective way. I will certainly write to the Department and make sure it has heard his remarks today, and I will feed it back to the permanent secretary.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the business and I endorse everything that the shadow Leader of the House said in relation to standards.

I would like to begin by paying tribute to former Scotland manager Craig Brown, one of two great Scots we lost this week. Winifred Margaret Ewing changed the course of Scottish politics when she won her triumphant by-election victory to this place in Hamilton in 1967. Winnie had the distinction of serving across three different Parliaments and opening the Scottish Parliament in 1999. There is no one who did more to popularise and internationalise the cause of Scottish independence. We will miss her greatly.

In Scotland this week, the iconic Caledonian Sleeper rail service was returned to public ownership, where it joined ScotRail, LNER—London North Eastern Railway—Northern Rail, Southeastern, Transport for Wales and TransPennine Express. Although they are often referred to as operators of last resort, experience shows that they make excellent operators of first resort. Perhaps the conclusion to draw is that some things just naturally belong in public ownership, like the water industry in Scotland. Given the current travails of Thames Water, may I suggest that the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on why the public interest should always take precedence over private profit not only in the rail sector but in the provision of water?

I understand that it is the Leader of the House’s custom and practice to spend almost as much time responding to what the SNP spokesperson says as criticising public services in Scotland. Before she gets to that, may I ask that she make time for debates on why six police forces in England continue to remain in special measures and why a report published today shows that NHS staff sickness in England has hit a record high, so that we can find out what the Government intend to do about it?

This is the first time that I have had the honour of responding for my party at business questions. As much as I am looking forward to the Leader of the House’s responses, I am looking forward very much to the inevitable YouTube clip that will follow. In Victorian times, similarly sensationalist outputs were often referred to as “penny dreadfuls”. I very much hope that the Leader of the House does not disappoint in that regard.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I thank my hon. Friend for her continued efforts on this very important matter. She will know that our dedicated forced marriage unit helps hundreds of victims a year and is providing support and advice to anyone in the UK. She will also know that the next Home Office questions are on Monday; I encourage her to raise this matter there, but I will also ensure that the Home Secretary has heard her desire for an update.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement.

The Backbench Business Committee formally agreed this week that, if awarded the time, on Thursday 13 July two debates will be held on behalf of the Liaison Committee. The subjects will be the second report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, “The cost of complacency: illicit finance and the war in Ukraine”, and the third report from the Health and Social Care Committee, “Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care”. If we are awarded the time, it is our intention to hold the second Sir David Amess memorial debate, otherwise known as matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment, on the last day before the summer recess.

As chair of the all-party group for football supporters, may I express my sympathy for the family of Craig Brown? He always struck me as a football manager who, in dire circumstances, would keep his head when all around were losing theirs. He was a bastion of football and a manager of great renown for about four decades. I send my sympathy to his family. He was a rock of Scottish football.

Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s questions, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would find time for primary legislation on the scourge of the indeterminate number of youngsters—roughly 140,000—who are missing from school altogether in England. The Education Secretary nodded when I asserted, having been told by the Minister for Schools, that primary legislation would be required to set up a national register to track those children and first, keep them safe, and secondly, try to get them into education. Will the Leader of the House please use her efforts in Cabinet to find time for primary legislation for this very important piece of work?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I should be very happy to attend some of those events, but it will have to be without my sword, because unfortunately the Tower of London would not let me take it home. I am sure all Members agree that my hon. Friend should be congratulated, as should those in her local area, on securing this fantastic investment to restore a coastal salt marsh that is key to so many species. As she will know, through our landmark Environment Act 2021 we have legally binding targets to halt and reverse the decline in species and reduce the risk of their becoming extinct. These environments and habitats are vital to biodiversity. So I say to my hon. Friend, “Good on you—well done”, and I shall be happy to help her in any way I can.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Christine Jardine as the Lib Dem representative.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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First, I associate myself with the remarks that have been made about Craig Brown. In my previous career as a journalist, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr Brown on several occasions. He was a gentleman and our thoughts are with his family.

A recent report by Shelter revealed just how bad homelessness has become in Scotland’s four main cities, with Edinburgh being the worst case. Figures show that 5,000 people are living in temporary accommodation, including more than 2,000 children. That is a tenfold increase since 2002. Given the shortage of financial support from the Scottish Government for local authorities and the fact that homelessness is not confined to Scotland, is the Leader of the House willing to set aside time for a debate on how we can kick-start a co-ordinated approach with agencies to tackle this growing problem, and on how we can increase the number of social houses and the financial support available to local authorities?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am sorry to hear about the right hon. Gentleman’s experience. When there are particular incidents and situations, it is important that Members are able to get hold of the relevant people quickly, whether that be officials or Ministers. If he could take the trouble to send me an email with the details of what happened, I would be very happy to raise it with the Department.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I support the Leader of the House, and I am very concerned. Where a Member sees a serious incident in their constituency, I thought duty Ministers were available 24 hours a day. If the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) is unhappy, he should come back to me. I will be supporting the Leader of the House to ensure that Members are treated with the respect they are due. We should make sure Ministers are accountable on serious incidents.

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Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Lab)
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This weekend, Bury football club has its first outing, away at Thackley, since it went into administration in 2020. As this is such a pivotal moment in the club’s history, will the Leader of the House join me in wishing Bury FC the best of luck for its first new season? Will she also pay tribute to the fans and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen? Up the Shakers!

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think you want to add, “Can we have a statement or a debate?”.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I know that all Members of this House take great interest in ensuring that our wonderful football clubs survive and thrive. As someone who was a shareholder in Portsmouth football club and saw it through the largest and fastest ever community buy-out, I know how difficult that can be. I take my hat off to all the volunteers who have kept Bury FC going and kept it playing, and I wish it all the luck at the weekend.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 22nd June 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I join the hon. Lady in saying how good it was this week to see the Windrush generation, and all their contributions to our nation, treasured and celebrated. The Windrush scandal—the injustice done to those people when they had given so much of themselves, and their families’ lives, to this nation—is a tremendous stain. I shall certainly ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what the hon. Lady said. She will know that the Home Office has stepped up bespoke surgeries for colleagues on other matters in our casework; I am sure that that could be extended to any cases of the Windrush generation that Members are dealing with.

I shall take all compliments that the hon. Lady gives me about my glamour, but I was not alone on Monday. Many Cabinet colleagues were in the same Lobby as us, as were the Chief Whip and the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary. I repeat what I said in the debate: whatever hon. Members thought about the motion that we were presented with on Monday night—whether they agreed or disagreed with it, or agreed and disagreed with various aspects of it—we are entitled to exercise our right to vote in either Lobby, or not to vote at all. I stressed that I very much feel that people should be left in peace to determine the course of action that they deem correct.

The hon. Lady has not said this, but some of her colleagues have pointed to my colleagues and called them cowards. I do not have time to look into the character of each colleague who was not in the same Lobby as us, but of the Conservative Members who abstained or voted against the Privileges Committee, 20 of them are veterans. Between them they have more than 253 years of service. I do not know how many medals they have between them, but one of them has a distinguished service order. These people are not cowards; they are honourable and decent people, and they did what they thought was right. I would say to anyone beating up on Members of this House for voting one way or another, or abstaining, “Even though I no longer have a sword, back off!” I hope that the hon. Lady, who has been nodding, would agree with that. We are at our best when we have that approach to these matters.

I appreciate that we have had a lot of debate this week and are awaiting news on rate rises from the stresses that our economy is under. I was disappointed to hear the lack of confidence expressed this week by those on the Opposition Benches in the resilience and capability of our nation. It does not survive contact with the facts. Last year, British exports to the EU were at their highest since records began. We are the largest service exporter in the world. The UK’s trade balance with the EU has improved. We now have the highest growth of any G7 nation in the last two years, and rank third globally as a priority investment destination.

We are the second nation in the world to have a stock of foreign direct investment worth $2 trillion. We are Europe’s most attractive destination for financial services. We have a trillion-dollar tech economy, and the largest life sciences, film and TV sectors in Europe. We have more people in work than ever before. We are modernising our statute book and can legislate to suit our needs and values on online safety, gene editing and data reform, just to give Members a few examples. We have identified £1 billion-worth of savings in red tape for UK firms and we are reducing compliance costs. We have given UK regulators the ability and resources to make sovereign decisions about globally significant mergers and acquisitions, and now have control over all aspects of our fiscal policy, the way we procure and how we grant subsidies, our taxes, and VAT.

We have scrapped 6,000 tariff lines. We have left the common fisheries policy and many of our ports have had a massive increase in sales; Brixham has gone from £40 million to £70 million in eight years. We now have an agricultural regime that supports the foundations of food production. Free trade agreements and state-level memorandums of understanding will increase our market share in goods and services. On freeports, Teesside alone is estimated to create 18,000 highly skilled jobs.

Are we still at the heart of Europe? Do they listen to us? Does NATO? Yes, they damn well do. I am proud of Britain’s leadership, seen again this week on Ukraine. Ditto AUKUS. Ditto the Atlantic partnership and declaration, and our work at the World Trade Organisation. The British public should be confident in the nation and the decisions that it took, even if Labour is not.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I would vote for that. Windrush deserves prominence, but we should not forget SS Ormonde, which landed in Liverpool in 1947 and SS Almanzora, which landed in Southampton in 1947.

The Leader of the House has announced the debate on the holocaust memorial. In that debate I will say that I look forward to a holocaust memorial being built within two years at a far lower cost, but I will argue to detach the learning centre from it and to have a fast competition for a more appropriate memorial, so that most of the money can be spent on the education centre.

My question to the Leader of the House follows a question I put to the veterans Minister in Cabinet Office questions. Will the Government please consider giving the Cabinet Office more power to decide which of those people still stuck in Afghanistan should be given permission to come to this country, such as the person I mentioned, who had been secretary to a governor in a province? I have written to my right hon. Friend in the Cabinet Office and to the Minister for Security in the Home Office, and I hope that the Leader of the House will consider whether more power should be given to that Department, as the Ministry of Defence is failing to extract people who served this country?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for what he said about the important Holocaust Memorial Bill. There are many different views about the right approach, but we can all agree that we want something done swiftly. It would be great to ensure that as many survivors as possible could be around to witness its fruition.

I completely understand his concern for the brave people in Afghanistan who were associated with the coalition’s work. He is obviously doing all that he can to ensure that his suggestion is heard by Cabinet Office colleagues, but I will make sure they have heard what he has said.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The hon. Lady is shouting loudly because I am coughing! This is not a good way to do things. We have to get a grip of time, because a lot of Members want to get in, and we must look after them.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I thank the hon. Lady for the sentiments she expressed about the rescue operation taking place as we speak. I was proud to say the naval prayer at the armed forces flag-raising ceremony that many Members attended. She is right to point out the dangers of crossings on the Mediterranean and right to refer to that appalling situation. Clearly, investigations are ongoing with regard to the coastguards’ activities. I remind Members that it was in a similar incident a few years ago that more people were lost in one night crossing the Mediterranean than were lost on the Titanic. That is why we must use every means at our disposal to stop people-trafficking operations and ensure we have a refugee and asylum system—not just in the UK, but a global set of rules—that enables us to direct finite financial resources to help those most in need and to take people who are lingering as we speak in refugee camps and other places, rather than one that encourages people to make dangerous crossings and puts funds in the way of people-trafficking organisations. I would just stress that to her.

We speak about many topics and matters, but we sometimes forget the personal impact on individuals of the polices our Governments make. One individual this week, Fergus from Inverness who worked in the legal profession for many years and will shortly be drawing his pension, is really dismayed at what is happening in Scotland. He is against the deposit return scheme and wants someone to come and sort that out; he is against the ill- thought-out marine protected areas; he is against the SNP’s transition from oil and gas; and he is against the SNP riding roughshod over UK equality Acts. What would be the hon. Lady’s advice to Fergus? What would she suggest to him, given that Fergus is an SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament who this week voted to support a motion of no confidence in his own Government’s co-leader? I have some advice for Fergus: fill out an application form to join the Conservative party and hand it to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who is standing up for his country- men and his nation.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on standing up for his local community. Whatever changes and adaptations are made to services, they need to be done in consultation with residents. If that has not happened, there needs to be a pause to enable that to happen. These are incredibly important services and that is why we have been backing local bus services with a further £300 million over the next two years, which includes £140 million to combat any indications of reductions in service.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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On Tuesday, the Backbench Business Committee heard applications for estimates day debates. Following the hearings, we selected the following subjects for debate: the spending of the Department for Work and Pensions; the spending of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on measures relating to energy infrastructure; the spending of the Department for Education on adult and post-16 education and further education colleges; and the spending of the Ministry of Justice on His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Those four debates will take place on Tuesday 4 July and Wednesday 5 July, but not necessarily in that order.

We have had a number of occasions recently when the House has adjourned early or relatively early on Government business days. If the Leader of the House and her colleagues have any inkling in advance about such early finishes in future, there is the possibility that the Backbench Business Committee, in conjunction with applicants, might be able to fill the void and conjure up debates to fill the space. We have mentioned that in the past. If Government business were to run to time when we had something lined up, we would just park it and bring it back at a future date. We are always trying to be flexible, but we are also trying to be helpful.

Privilege: Conduct of Right Hon. Boris Johnson

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 19th June 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The right hon. Lady brings me to my closing remarks on why what we do this afternoon matters, whichever way we decide to vote, or not to vote. The real-world consequences of a vote today may seem to come down to whether the former Member for Uxbridge has a pass to the estate. Our constituents may not appreciate why we are focused on contempt towards the House as opposed to contempts that they may feel have been made against them: the lockdown breaches themselves, which grate hard with those who sacrificed so much to keep us all safe; for others, the creation of a culture relaxed about the need to lift restrictions; for others, wider issues such as the debasement of our honours system. But we would be wrong to think that there is no meaningful consequence to our actions this afternoon.

The Committee of Privileges, in its work producing this report, did not just examine the conduct of a former colleague but sought to defend our rights and privileges in this place: the right not to be misled and the right not to be abused when carrying out our duties. As a consequence, it has also defended the rights of those who sent us here and those we serve. I thank the Committee and its staff for their service.

This matters because the integrity of our institutions matter. The respect and trust afforded to them matter. This has real-world consequences for the accountability of Members of the Parliament to each other and the members of the public they represent. Today, all Members should do what they think is right, and others should leave them alone to do so.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Leader of the House.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 8th June 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that very good suggestion. One of the advantages of being outside the EU is that we now have complete control of our fiscal policy, and this is a great example of what we could do. I shall certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Health and the Chancellor have heard his suggestion today, and I encourage him to raise it at the next health questions, which is on 11 July.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for her work on this incredibly important issue, and also thank the family of her constituent who was sadly lost because of an accident with button batteries. She will know that the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business is chairing a cross-discipline working group to bring together all the players who can raise awareness of the risks. The Office for Product Safety and Standards commissioned a fast-track business standard for button batteries that was published in 2021, but there is more to be done, and I shall certainly ensure that the Minister has heard my hon. Friend’s remarks.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and the Backbench business on 15 June. If the Committee is allocated the time, on 22 June we will have debates on the infected blood inquiry and on funding for the prevention of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, or FOP, which is a distressing ailment. On Thursday 29 June, if allocated the time, we will have debates on the UK fishing industry and on artificial intelligence.

The Backbench Business Committee understands that estimates debates are to take place in early July, and the deadline for submitting applications to the Committee will be Monday 19 June. Applications can be submitted online or on old-fashioned paper forms, and staff in the Table Office can provide advice. Applications for estimates debates can be submitted by individual Members, Select Committee Chairs or Select Committee members on topics relating to their Committee.

Through my work on the Education Committee, I have become aware that 92% of the 7,200 or so deaf children under the age of five are not gaining access to auditory verbal therapy, and that the UK has only 27 auditory verbal therapists. Can we have a statement about what the Government intend to do to recruit and train more auditory verbal therapists to rectify this injustice for our young deaf children?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 25th May 2023

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for that. I join her in wishing the football team well and in what she says about the great Tina Turner, who was a complete icon. What a woman, what a life and what a legacy she leaves all of us.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not feel able to welcome the good news that we have had this week. Thanks to the stoicism of the British people and the hard work of their Government, inflation is falling, as are energy costs, and the International Monetary Fund has upgraded its growth forecasts for the UK. There has also been more inward investment, with £18 billion from the G7 host nation, to mention just one, and more funding for our schools. She did not welcome the news of the vast improvements that our reforms in England, and phonics in particular, have brought. I would be happy to compare the track record of our school buildings programme in my constituency with the legacy left by Labour. I recall that when I came into this House, I made a freedom of information request to the Department for Education to find out how much traffic and correspondence there had been from my Labour predecessor on trying to rebuild our decaying schools—there had been none. Since then, we have had a number of schools completely rebuilt and a new university technical college, and that position is echoed around the country. Even if she did not want to mention any of that, she could have at least welcomed the price of a good bottle of plonk coming down, thanks to red tape being cut.

The hon. Lady mentions the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, whose measures are manifesto commitments. It joins a long list of animal welfare reforms that we have brought in: new regulations for minimum standards on meat chickens; a ban on the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens; CCTV being made mandatory in slaughterhouses in England; microchipping being made mandatory for dogs; the modernising of our licensing system; protecting animals via Finn’s law and Lucy’s law; passing the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019; implementing humane trapping standards; passing the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022; passing the Ivory Act 2018; and many other things. Clearly, there are further measures in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill that we want to bring forward and that are manifesto commitments. We are still committed to those measures. In the statement later today, Members will be able to see both our commitments and our plan to deliver them, and, I hope, the opportunity to deliver some of those measures faster than the Bill would have allowed. The same applies to leaseholder reform, which I have spoken about many times: we are committed to those statements.

We are making good progress. There has been a lot of chat this week about things trying to slow us down, including “the blob”, which I understand was a poor-quality production from the 1950s. It was about an amorphous, spineless, shape-shifting jelly that keeps changing its position on things, is red in colour and must be stopped at all costs for humanity’s sake. That is not the civil service; it sounds rather like the Labour party. I may have just hit upon a plan for our next party political broadcast.

Further business and further recess dates will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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We are grateful to the Leader of the House for the way that she spoke about our late colleague and to the shadow Leader of House for her response.

Recently, the examiners classified the Holocaust Memorial Bill as hybrid. Will my right hon. Friend, in peacetime, refer to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee the comments of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and of those who lead the Holocaust Memorial Foundation that they welcomed the Bill passing this step and that the Government actually spent their time trying to oppose the Bill being classified as hybrid. I also refer the Government to something in the press notice that said that one holocaust survivor has had to wait nine years from the time that this proposal was put forward to getting to this stage, and that he hopes to be able to be there when the memorial is opened.

Under the present plans, assuming that the Bill gets through both Houses of Parliament, with or without amendments—probably with amendments—that memorial cannot be completed for another five to six years. I suggest that the Government consider having the memorial—not necessarily the big one in Victoria Tower Gardens, but a smaller, more appropriate one—either there, in College Green, or Parliament Square and recognise that the learning centre is well suited at the Imperial War Museum, where one of Dame Diane Lees’s tributes was to create both the learning centre and the holocaust galleries. Everyone can then be satisfied and the holocaust survivors may be able to see a memorial in their lifetime.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that matter and for suggesting a pragmatic way forward. My understanding is that that suggestion has been made and rejected, but he will know that the Government are very keen to ensure that a memorial can be built in the swiftest time possible, precisely because we want the remaining holocaust survivors to be able to witness that. I shall make sure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has heard his suggestions today.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that matter. I think all Members of this House will want to continue to show our resolve in supporting the people of Ukraine. There are clearly big decisions being taken at the moment in various international forums, including at NATO. I know many Members of this House have engagements with those international forums and would want to express the contribution they are making on the Floor of this House. I will certainly raise the request with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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That might be Nutbush City Limits—[Laughter.]

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Very good, Mr Speaker.

May I thank the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) for his work in advertising to colleagues—again, very successfully—the opportunities that his Committee brings for them to air their views on things that they care about. We have run debates on the anniversary of Grenfell, and he will know that there are ongoing discussions about that just to make sure that it is what everyone wants. I thank him for that.

My commiserations to the hon. Gentleman’s team, but he is also very good at congratulating the victor.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 18th May 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important question, and for the work that she is doing with her councillors and the police and crime commissioner on that important matter. She will know that the next relevant questions will be on 8 June and I suggest she raises the matter with the Secretary of State.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he and his Committee have done on this incredibly important issue. He has expressed concerns about the schedule of EU retained law to be revoked, the Government’s policy on that and Brexit opportunities, and the opportunity that his Committee and other Members of this House will have to scrutinise. I go through those concerns, because I emphasise to him that this Government take those concerns extremely seriously. My understanding, and I checked this morning, is that the Secretary of State has agreed to appear before his Committee. After this session, I will make sure that he is updated on that, but that is my understanding as of a few moments ago.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am very sorry to hear about that situation. My right hon. Friend is also a Privy Counsellor and it is a courtesy to Privy Counsellors that Secretaries of State should respond to their correspondence. Of course, every Department must be responding to correspondence from Members of this House in a timely way. I would be happy to take up this particular instance and I am sorry that he has had this shoddy treatment.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Can I just say to the Leader of the House that it might be worth while if we were to have a meeting with the Chief Whip? It is becoming more and more apparent that Members—Back Benchers in particular —cannot represent their constituents when Departments do not answer their correspondence in good time. I would say that it is now becoming the way forward not to answer Members. That is not acceptable, we need to get it resolved and I am sure that we can both do that together to represent Back Benchers in the way they should be and, more importantly, their constituents.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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One hundred and thirty years ago, Ivor Novello was born in Cowbridge Road East in my Cardiff West constituency. Today, we celebrate the Ivor Novello awards that bear his name, with the wonderful, brilliant song writing and composing community that we have in the UK. May we have a debate about the contribution that is made, both culturally and economically, by our brilliant song writers and composers in the UK, and explore Government policy and the implications of artificial intelligence and so on for the future of our brilliant song writing and composing community?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 20th April 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this very important point. Although these are commercial decisions for banks, it is a matter of concern to us to ensure that people have access to banking services and are able to access cash. As she knows, we have announced more than 50 new shared banking hubs. I will certainly raise the matter with the relevant Minister, as the next departmental questions are not until 9 May, to ensure that she has all the information she needs to look at alternatives. We are progressing legislation in the Financial Services and Markets Bill to ensure that communities are protected.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson..

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
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I suppose I should start by thanking the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) for that remarkable outburst. In many ways we should be grateful, because never before has she shown such an interest in Scotland—that was, indeed, painfully obvious. There is much I would say, but it will suffice if I say that perhaps people in glass houses should not throw stones.

It is a pleasure to be here and come off the subs bench to make my debut at business questions. Members can see that, like all great athletes, I have been weeks in preparation for the big event. There is, however, a chance that more folk will have witnessed this particular substitution than any of the five changes made during Scotland’s famous and magnificent victory over Spain last month. Unlike our free-to-air Parliament TV, no such thing exists as free-to-air live football in Scotland. Scotland’s football fans have to subscribe to all manner of providers if they are to watch domestic or international matches. It is becoming an increasingly expensive hobby. May we therefore have a debate to find a way that will, at the very least, return Scottish international matches to free-to-view telly?

But of course, it is not just our international football that is facing an international blackout. Scotland’s democratically elected politicians are facing one too, as the hyper-insecure Foreign Secretary is now frantically telling foreign Governments that they should not engage with Scottish Ministers without his or his Department’s permission. Quite what has triggered this bizarre bout of ministerial paranoia in the Foreign Secretary is unclear, so perhaps it would be very helpful for all of us if the Government were to make time for a debate about what it is exactly they fear from Members of our democratically elected Parliament speaking to people furth of these islands.

Surely, talking to others, learning from one another’s experiences, sharing new ideas and understanding difference is at the heart of all that we are about. Given that exactly 55 years ago today, on 20 April 1968, Enoch Powell gave his now infamous rivers of blood speech, would it not be great to have a debate in Government time to put on record our overwhelming belief that immigration has been good for this country and has greatly enriched every one of the nations on this island?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. He will know that the issue is a focus for this Government, in part because of the energy bill support scheme alternative funding that is available and wanting to make sure that everyone can make use of that. The relevant Department has set up surgeries for Members, particularly because of the issues they have raised about park home owners, and we supported the Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill. We are focused on the issue and I thank my hon. Friend for raising it. He will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for her statement and for announcing the Backbench Business debates on 27 April and 2 May. I am glad to say that the Committee had no fewer than six applications yesterday, which keeps us on track to fill up the appropriate slots. Slots for May are already filling up rapidly, so if Members are looking to access slots for debates in late May or June, I urge them to submit their applications as soon as possible.

Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Gateshead football club on getting to Wembley to play in the FA trophy final on 21 May? It will be my second visit to Wembley in recent history. I am afraid to say that Newcastle was not as successful against Manchester United as I had hoped, but I am hoping that Gateshead will have greater success against Halifax Town on 21 May.

Finally, may I ask the Leader of the House if we can we have a debate about children being hungry at school? Because of the very low income required to be eligible for free school meals and the sadly increasing cost of school meals for those who have to pay, many more children are being sent to school with totally inadequate, nutritionally deficient packed lunches. That is in addition to the growing number of children who rely on breakfasts provided in school, through the support of Magic Breakfast, Greggs and Kellogg’s. So can we have an urgent debate about the growing number and the dreadful problem of children being hungry in our schools? Hungry children do not learn, and that is bad for everyone.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I can tell from the noises from all parts of the Chamber that we would all want to congratulate Brandon Grant on his amazing achievement. I am glad that the hon. Lady was able to celebrate that. I also want to put on record our thanks and gratitude to boxing clubs such as Priestfield that do so much to support and spot amazing talent.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Until Jack Catterall boxes and takes the title from Scotland to England.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I am not sure if I ever was a boxer, but I am a real good fighter.

Over Easter, the Reverend Dr Hkalam Samson was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in Myanmar. The Reverend Samson is a non-violent Christian pastor and a tireless advocate for justice, human rights, and freedom of religion and belief. I had the privilege, which I remember well, of meeting him when he visited Parliament in 2018. He is a humble and courageous man. This sentence is a clear use of anti-terror legislation to silence a high-profile and vocal critic of a genocidal military regime. Will the Leader of the House join me in condemning this imprisonment in the strongest terms and, as our voice in Cabinet, which I am very pleased to have, ask appropriate Ministers to co-ordinate a strong international response to it?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 16th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will certainly write to my hon. Friend to give him all the details related to this. The instrument will be published on Monday, when he will be able to see the legal basis on which it is published. It will be laid before Parliament under normal procedures. I am announcing it today because I want people to have early notice. I will write to my hon. Friend, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, and to other Members who have a direct interest to spell that out.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I join my right hon. Friend in putting on record our thanks to all those agencies, including the council and the lifeboat crew, who were instrumental in assisting in the emergency response. As he knows, we have been investing in flood defences and in trying to alleviate coastal erosion, and we will continue to do so. I understand that £40 million has been invested on the flood defence side in my right hon. Friend’s constituency. I know that he has already raised this issue with the Secretary of State, but I will make sure that she has heard my right hon. Friend’s remarks today. I remind my right hon. Friend that the next questions on this topic are on the 30th.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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Following my little advertisement last week, I am glad to say that we received no fewer than seven applicants at the Committee on Tuesday, so that is working. If Members are unsure about how to apply for Backbench Business debates, staff in the Table Office will help them with advice on how to do so.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, including our proposed debates on World Down Syndrome Day and tackling the energy trilemma. If we are allocated time on the 30th, we are proposing a debate on public access to nature and a general debate on matters to be raised before the Adjournment, as it will be the last business prior to the Easter recess.

Could we have a statement about changes to the warm home discount payment, which is an issue a number of constituents have contacted me about? I am very glad to say that the payment is going up from £140 to £150, and the number of eligible households is also going to increase, but surprisingly, some households that had previously received that benefit will no longer do so, including some single-person disabled households that are in receipt of disability benefits. There will be about a 36% reduction in the number of people in that category who will receive the benefit, so can we have a statement to clarify the situation and to say how we can rectify what I think is an anomaly that probably was not intended?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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That is an appalling situation and I am very sorry to hear about it. I will, after this session, raise it with the Secretary of State and the permanent secretary at that Department and ask them to get in touch with my hon. Friend’s office to set up those meetings. It is right that we make progress; this is a matter of law.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I will just add that I support the Leader of the House. Members should be treated with respect, and Ministers are here to answer to Members of Parliament who represent their constituents. I hope this message has gone back pretty clearly: get it sorted quickly. I am sure the Leader of the House will take this up and I will also take it up.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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Tomorrow is St Patrick’s day [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Exactly. But it is also the first anniversary of P&O Ferries’ appalling assault on the legal and employment rights of almost 800 UK-based seafarers. RMT, Nautilus and the TUC reminded us all this week that, despite assurances from Ministers, neither P&O nor the parent company DP World has received any punishment or sanctions for their law-breaking and egregious treatment of their loyal workforce, so may we have a debate in Government time on the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy and on why previous ministerial commitments to hold P&O Ferries to account have apparently sunk without trace?

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 9th March 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I commiserate with my right hon. Friend on the Spurs result?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House want answers to these important questions, which have huge implications for our national security—as an aside, he will know that the integrated review refresh will appear shortly. I will certainly take up his question with the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because I know that people are interested not just in the statements that this Government make, but in our assessment of what other Governments have said on this important matter. I undertake to write to him this afternoon on those points.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for the attention she has given to this issue. It is not just a matter of history, but clearly resonates with what is going in the world today. I also congratulate her on securing that debate in Westminster Hall. We understandably reserve as much Government time as possible to get legislation through, but, as my hon. Friend will know, the route of an early-day motion is available if Members wish to express support for a particular matter. The definition of genocide is a legal one and not something that a Government would determine, but I remind her that the Backbench Business Committee can also grant debates on substantive motions.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I am eternally grateful, Mr Speaker.

Bearing in mind what the Leader of the House has just said, I remind Members that we particularly welcome applications for debates that they had intended to air in Westminster Hall. These debates offer a great opportunity for Members to air issues of concern to themselves and their constituents, to inform Ministers representing relevant Departments of those issues, and to hear from the Ministers how they intend to rectify the problems involved.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could give the Chancellor of the Exchequer a little nudge to include in his Budget statement next Wednesday a proposal to increase the £500 quarterly allowance for tax-free childcare support. That limit is already entirely inadequate, and the gap is being exacerbated as childcare providers are understandably being forced to increase their daily fees. Parents are already paying more than they can afford to providers who are making losses, cutting costs, and desperately struggling to avoid closures.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 2nd March 2023

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am the grand old age of twenty-thirty this weekend. I thank my hon. Friend for that very kind remark. He will know that, having been a frequent flyer before his Committee, I take what he says very seriously. I shall certainly ensure that any Secretary of State whom he has invited to give evidence is encouraged to do so.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tributes to Baroness Boothroyd

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 28th February 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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I rise on behalf of His Majesty’s Government to pay tribute to a remarkable figure. I know how many will be affected by this sad news of her passing and I know that the whole House will want to send their thoughts and prayers to her dearest. I was two months old when Betty was elected to this place on her fifth attempt. By my reckoning, fewer than 30 of our current right hon. and hon. Members were contemporaries of hers—I can see many of them in the Chamber today—yet we all knew her. We knew her before we arrived here. We knew her before she wrote to us, talked to us, encouraged us and made us laugh.

There are few political figures who get cut-through with the public, but she was one of them. It was not just her features or her fantastic voice that were recognised; we all knew what she stood for. Hers was a character that was forceful enough to transcend time, Parliaments, partisanship and generations. It was who she was and what she did; her trailblazing legacy not just as the first woman Speaker, but the first from the Opposition Benches. She was of a generation who took ground for women’s progress. She had been inspired by vinegar and gunpowder. She was a moderniser—she demystified. Her 50-year parliamentary career and all she did for national life, in particular for women, inspired and paved the way for future generations, but also she commemorated and got credit for those who had gone before her. She felt keenly that the privileges of this House were dearly won in toil and sacrifice, and the monument to the women of the second world war stands in great part because of her.

But it was not just her considerable achievements that made her recognisable; there was something more. It was how she made us feel. Like the Pennines from which she hailed, she gave our nation backbone. She gave us courage, because she reminded us that we were no cowards. Her warmth, entertainment and no-nonsense approach helped to restore trust. She made this place accessible, and she commanded us with the salty glamour of a pub landlady: “Time’s up!” Her gritty pragmatism sat comfortably alongside her optimism and hope and a deep faith in future generations.

She gave us confidence and pride in this place, and that was no accident. She wanted to give all a chance because she had cherished every chance that she had been given. For me, that care was evident in a particular letter she wrote to me after I had proposed the Loyal Address in 2014, and I was so grateful for it. She concluded that she wanted me to “flourish”—not just to be successful or to do well or to get on, but to flourish, to excel, to be all I could be, to have a ruddy good time doing it and to understand what my purpose was. She knew her purpose: “I speak to serve”, she said, and she served us well. May she rest in peace, and may these tributes to her remind us all of the responsibility and the opportunity it is our privilege to have. Thank you, Betty.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Leader of the House.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 23rd February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. We know that in these circumstances there are balances to be struck, but it is critical that there is the time and space to ensure that everyone is properly consulted, sometimes with alternatives brought forward. I am always keen to encourage Members to apply for debates, but in this instance, I really hope that the firm involved has heard what he said today and will pause, to allow a little more time to get a good result for the whole community.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The SNP spokesperson today is Gavin Newlands.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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I pass on the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), who is away on parliamentary business. Mr Speaker, you may have seen last night that the Home Secretary was interviewed by the only outlet she can bear scrutiny from: GB News, or GBeebies, as I call it. She said that the British are too “shy about our greatness”. For starters, I wish she would be a little shyer about her own greatness, but perhaps she has picked up that Britons are all too aware that our international stock has plummeted. As Burns might say to her,

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

Perhaps we can debate Britain’s place in the world and just how much it has fallen.

The Leader of the House likes to bring up the subject of ferry procurement, which is bold, considering the antics of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) in awarding ferry contracts to companies without ferry boats—not too dissimilar, in fact, to awarding PPE contracts to mates who do not produce PPE. The Leader of the House is correct that the ferry situation is sub-optimal, but it is being investigated. I can only therefore assume that Westminster has an excellent record in capital and procurement—PPE aside, obviously—but it does not. Thameslink had a budget of £2.8 billion, cost £7.3 billion and was two years late. Crossrail had a budget of £14.8 billion, cost £19 billion and was four years late. The Jubilee line extension had a budget of £2.1 billion, cost £3.5 billion and was a year and a half late. Perhaps we can have a debate on capital projects and procurement, where we can discuss the Stonehenge bypass and Ajax tanks.

Finally, Mr Speaker, we need to debate what constitutes a democratic deficit. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that

“addressing the democratic deficit is an essential part of the negotiations that remain ongoing with the European Union.”—[Official Report, 22 February 2023; Vol. 728, c. 221.]

Perhaps my memory is playing up, but I seem to recall that Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union; in fact, a clear two-to-one majority supports rejoining. There is 20% majority support for the protocol, and perhaps most condemning of all, just 3% of Northern Irish voters trust this Government to manage their interests on the protocol. In contrast, the people of Scotland have not voted Tory since the ’50s, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and voted time and again to be allowed to choose their own future. Now, that is a democratic deficit.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has been watching the news, especially GB News—I am very encouraged to hear that. I wonder whether that channel is covering Audit Scotland’s report on the SNP’s handling of the NHS, which is out today. Under those circumstances, I think it is brave of the hon. Gentleman to go on fiscal responsibility. He focused on Brexit, however, so let me address the points he raised.

This might be one of the last exchanges we have about Brexit, because it is going to be very hard for the SNP to come to this Chamber and raise the issue of Brexit ever again. Even the most outrageous claims about the supposed negative impacts of leaving the EU made by the most fanatical rejoiners cannot compare with the damage that will be done to the UK’s internal market, to producers and businesses in Scotland, and to the cost of living for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents by the SNP’s DRS—deposit return scheme. In a few months, the only way in which people will be able to buy Scottish produce—if it is contained in glass or plastic—is to come south of the border. Such items will be as rare in their land of origin as Labour MPs.

In all seriousness, I urge the SNP to listen to communities and producers in Scotland and to produce a smarter scheme. On this, as on all things, the SNP should be driven by what is in the Scottish people’s interest. The party’s leadership contest, which is going on at the moment, is an opportunity for a reset and a fresh start, and to end the slopey-shouldered separatism that has done such a great disservice to such a great nation. I suggest to all candidates in the SNP’s leadership contest that a much better DRS initiative would be to desist ruining Scotland.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Andrew Bridgen.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Ind)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] When they have finished.

The World Health Organisation pandemic treaty is deeply concerning. It seeks to give the discredited WHO huge powers over this country and our people—powers to call pandemics, enforce lockdowns and vaccinations, and decide when any pandemic is over. Can we have an urgent debate on that proposed treaty, which, if passed, will take accountability, democracy and sovereignty from our constituents and hand them over to unelected and discredited bureaucrats? That would be the antithesis of Brexit itself.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. That is an excellent topic for a debate, and I will certainly make his views known, both to the Department of Health and Social Care and to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which looks after many of the international organisations involved. As we know from the pandemic and from other outbreaks such as Ebola, such diseases know no borders. It is only through international co-operation and collaboration that we will arrive at solutions to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the last few years, and that everyone in the world is safe from those terrible diseases.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. I thank the Leader of the House for her business statement and for announcing the business. I inform Members that the closing date for estimates day debate applications is tomorrow at 1 pm, and—as the Leader of the House announced in her statement—those debates will be aired on Wednesday 8 March, before the House is asked to agree all outstanding estimates. We are still open to other Backbench Business debate applications for the Chamber and Westminster Hall; we welcome such applications.

The plight of children with special educational needs and their parents has long been known, and there is worsening evidence of rationing and queues for assessments; shortages of key staff, such as educational psychologists, to do those assessments; and education, health and care plans increasingly showing signs of being resource-led rather than led by the needs of the individual child, which leads to greater recourse to special educational needs tribunals. The Green Paper, which was overdue but welcome, was published 11 months ago. Can we have a statement on the Government’s intention to legislate on and properly fund provision for children with special educational needs, so that, as the Green Paper highlights, they get the

“right support, in the right place, and at the right time”.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I do not know about the event, so I cannot comment on that, but nobody should need to go because, after I have finished at the Dispatch Box, the Minister will be here to talk about that precise topic. Hon. Members are welcome to ask him all kinds of questions—completely free of charge.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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On that point, I am very concerned because everybody on Sky News and every media outlet has had the ability to hear the announcement before the House. I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that it should be in this House first, not all over Sky News.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely right, spot on and in tune with the vast majority of the British people when he made stopping small boat crossings, tackling the illegal and evil people smugglers, and ending illegal immigration into this country one of his top priorities. We are told that we need legislation for that, yet in today’s announcement, no small boats Bill was forthcoming. Can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House assure me that that additional legislation will come before the House before the Budget? Will it have the same urgency behind it that we used for the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important point. I will certainly make sure that the Cabinet Office has heard the issues she has raised. I could give countless examples of where we have relied on brave people with moral courage to do the right thing, and we owe them protections. I think all Members of the House would agree with what the hon. Lady has said.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I hope all of us would.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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Leave aside sitting through the night, because so far this week—Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday—this House should have been sitting for 24 hours, but in fact seven hours and 47 minutes of that time was lost. I hope my right hon. Friend shares my concern about this, because so often the Government say we cannot debate things because we have not got any time. Will she ask the Procedure Committee to look again at the issue of second Adjournment debates, which used to be commonplace in this Chamber? That would ensure that this time was not wasted, and if the business was going to go short, it would be possible for people to come forward with a second, third or even, sometimes, a fourth Adjournment debate. We would thereby avoid getting a reputation as a part-time Parliament.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that important point, and pay tribute to her for all the work she has done not just for the UK but internationally, putting this issue on the international stage and encouraging other nations to join in the leadership that she has shown. Home Office questions will not take place until February, so, on my right hon. Friend’s behalf, I will write to the Home Secretary asking her to contact my right hon. Friend personally to discuss the matter.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

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

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

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. A Whip should not just walk through when people are addressing—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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No, but it would be nice if you did realise.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Scotland is the nation of the Argylls and the Black Watch crossing the Rhine, the Scots Guards at Tumbledown and Shimi Lovat’s commandos securing Pegasus bridge. The taxes sitting in the Scottish Government’s accounts not being spent on education are paid for by grain farmers not grievance farmers, and by incredible communities and creatives. The people who elected the hon. Lady are incredibly resourceful and they do not match the SNP’s vision of them as a nation of victims; they are a powerful force for good in the Union and the world. They march to the fife and drum, not the saddest tune played on the smallest violin.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this incredibly important issue; I was also at that meeting. There are people who say, “Why should we be regulating businesses?” I can tell them that if a branch of Tesco closed in my constituency, I could point to a Sainsbury’s a few metres away and say, “Don’t worry, there’s another supermarket there.” However, when Portsmouth football club was about to fold, I could not say to my constituents, “Don’t worry, down the road in Southampton is another football club where you might care to go to watch a game.” He is absolutely right: we want to make sure that these important community assets, for that is what they are, are protected. The next DCMS questions is on 9 March, but I shall make sure the Secretary of State has heard his question today.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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As Chair, may I say that I take pride in the fact that the Backbench Business Committee has been able to facilitate this afternoon’s important debate on Holocaust Memorial Day? There is an important message here: Back-Bench Members in all parts of this House think that that is an important and priority debate to have in such a timely way. On behalf of the Committee, I would very much welcome applications for debates in the main Chamber and for slots in Westminster Hall. We ask for applications to be submitted in writing to our Clerks, who are situated in the Table Office. The Committee meets on Tuesday afternoons to consider applications, where we ask Members to present their applications in person.

May I thank the Leader of the House for our meeting yesterday and for introducing me to the members and crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was a real pleasure? May I also thank her for writing to the Levelling Up Secretary on my behalf following last week’s business statement? The crisis in local government funding is intensifying, particularly in my local Gateshead Council. Our leisure centre, previously a venue for top-level and international sporting events, is now, sadly, earmarked for closure, along with its swimming pool, which is situated next door. Gateshead International stadium could well be in the firing line; the home of Gateshead Harriers and Gateshead football club could be in the firing line because the local authority no longer has the revenue to support its maintenance, upkeep and running. So may we have a debate in Government time on the sustainability of our sporting and activity centres?

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