Debates between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire during the 2019 Parliament

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 20th July 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 4 September will be:

Monday 4 September—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, followed by Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill.

Tuesday 5 September—Remaining stages of the Energy Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 6 September—If necessary, consideration of Lords message to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, followed by an Opposition day (18th allotted day second part) debate in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Thursday 7 September—Debate on a motion on hormone pregnancy tests, followed by a general debate on funding for the prevention of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 8 September—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 11 September includes:

Monday 11 September—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Online Safety Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, but I am disappointed that two pieces of important House business seem to be missing. First, there was no mention of when MPs will get to debate and vote on the Commission’s proposals to introduce a new process for dealing with MPs accused of violent or sexual offences. The Leader of the House was not able to answer me when I asked about the matter last week, so I would be grateful if she could do so today. She and I have worked hard on this together, as well as with you, Mr Speaker, the commissioners, staff and the trade unions. We cannot lose momentum. I know the Leader of the House agrees with me that the proposed new mechanism is needed to reduce the risk of harm to all those who work on and visit the parliamentary estate, so will she give us some clarity, show all the people listening that we are making progress and tell us when the House will get the chance to vote on it?

I am also concerned that the Leader of the House has still not announced when the House will consider the Standards Committee’s report on the conduct of the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), the findings of which are shocking. Colleagues and staff have been asking when the House will get the opportunity to approve the report and endorse the sanction. He has brought this House into disrepute and frankly should no longer be a Member of it. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether she knows if the Member will be resigning or if he has appealed the Committee’s sanction? Either way, she could table the motion as a remaining order, even without a date attached. When will she bring forward a motion so that the House can vote and move on?

I wish all Members, Members’ staff, House staff and everyone who works on the parliamentary estate a very happy summer recess. As we come to the end of term and head back to work in our own communities, it is worth reflecting on what the Government have achieved—or not—this year. People I have been speaking to up and down the country are simply fed up. Nothing works in this country any more, and the Tories have simply given up doing anything about it. I saw on the Order Paper today that the Leader of the House is due to announce the date of the next King’s Speech in a written ministerial statement—perhaps I could press her to give us an early sighting of that now—but the Government have nowhere near finished with the last set of new laws they said they were going to pass.

The Prime Minister has been caught out, overpromising and massively under-delivering, including on the Renters (Reform) Bill, which was initially promised four years ago and so many Members across the House said they wanted. There is no transport Bill, no schools Bill and no mental health Bill. Why does the Leader of the House think that working people will believe that this Government are going to make people’s lives better this time? On top of all that, prices are still going up at staggering rates, and families are bearing the brunt of the Tory cost of living crisis. That is what the people of Selby and Ainsty, Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and Somerton and Frome will be thinking about when they head to the ballot box today, fed up and wanting change.

Labour is the party of change. We have a proper plan to grow our economy, to bring down Bills, to secure the energy this country needs and to tackle climate change. People will have welcomed the opportunity to vote Labour today in three constituencies, and send the Tories a message, but is it not time that we had a general election, so the whole country gets the chance to have their say?

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!

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 13th July 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for next week includes:

Monday 17 July—Consideration of Lords message to the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by consideration of Lords message to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords message to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, followed by motion relating to an appointment to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Tuesday 18 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords message to the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, followed by motions to approve the draft Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) (Amendment) Order 2023 and the draft Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2023 followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message.

Wednesday 19 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords message to the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by motion to approve the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2023 (SI, 2023 No. 713), followed by debate on the Committee on Standards’ report on all-party parliamentary groups, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords messages.

Thursday 20 July—The Sir David Amess summer adjournment debate. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the summer recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 20 July and return on Monday 4 September.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

The Leader of the House did not announce a date for the debate and vote on the House of Commons Commission’s proposal to introduce a new process for dealing with MPs accused of violent or sexual offences. We both agree this mechanism is needed to reduce the risk of harm to all those who work on and visit the parliamentary estate. Colleagues and staff need clarity and want to see progress. Given that our original plan was to get the motion through before the summer recess, could she give us a date for when the vote will happen? I know that, like me, she believes this is incredibly important. We have worked hard on it together, and I therefore hope she will sort this imminently.

Once again, the Government wasted another week of precious time in this House pushing their unworkable, immoral and illegal asylum Bill. They could have just accepted the common-sense, human rights-focused amendments from the Lords. I thank their lordships for, again, sitting so late last night to try to repair the damage that the Government are intent on causing.

Meanwhile, it is left to Labour to introduce proposals that will make a difference to the lives of working people. Yesterday, we set out our plan to accelerate the production of electric vehicles: our plan to create 80,000 jobs, power 2 million electric vehicles and add £30 billion to the UK’s economy. No wonder it passed unanimously. The Government have presided over a 37% fall in car production since 2010, with seemingly no ambition to reverse it. Instead of tearing down unnecessary trade barriers with our friends and neighbours in the EU, as Labour would do, they are happy to see the imposition of 10% tariffs. How will that help us to export more of our Great British cars? Our Opposition day motion was successful, not a single MP voted against it, so will the Leader of the House tell us what steps the Government will be taking to act on Labour’s motion and when? This is about growing our economy, bringing down the cost of living, creating quality jobs and tackling climate change. Labour has a plan. Where is the Tories’ plan? The next Labour Government will be on the side of everyone building the cars of the future in Britain.

Finally, I hope the Leader of the House had an enjoyable evening yesterday at the Prime Minister’s so-called “unifying hog roast” in Downing Street. I wonder whether she managed to catch up with the right hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries). You would not think it if you’ve been looking out for her in Parliament, but I understand that she has been pretty busy. She has failed to turn up here for more than a year, but she has had time to present her own TV show, write her own Daily Mail column and even pen a book. That is a lot to fit in between strops over being denied a peerage. On that, the Cabinet Secretary said he has referred the Member to the Government Chief Whip over reports that she sent forceful messages to civil servants about her non-peerage. He also said he was seeking further advice on whether the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 could come into play. Can the Leader of the House clear up this mess and tell us if this is being properly investigated?

Despite all of that, the Prime Minister is still happy for that Member to be listed as a Conservative. Is this all people can expect from their Tory representatives? She said that she would resign with “immediate effect”. Does the Leader of the House have an update for the people of Mid Bedfordshire? Perhaps she could give a dictionary definition of the word “immediate” for the Member. When will the people she is supposed to represent get the chance to elect a Labour MP, who will actually show up for working people?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me deal with that last point. The hon. Lady will know that such matters that were raised at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee are not ones for me, as the Leader of the Commons, or indeed for the Chief Whip—they are matters for the Cabinet Secretary. Standards and ethics are very important and they are important rules, but clearly there are some grey areas.

I very much enjoyed the hon. Lady’s painting a picture of Labour as guardians of our border security and champions of economic growth. Given her mention of automotive manufacturing, I am surprised that she did not welcome the £6 billion investment announced this week by Renault-Geely, which comes on top of the £17 billion investment from Japan; the UK is doing rather well on that front.

I take issue with the portrait the hon. Lady painted of her party, as we cannot rely on Labour for the things she said. We cannot rely on it to protect our borders. The Labour party has voted a total of 36 times to weaken our Illegal Migration Bill. We cannot rely on Labour for growth or to balance the books. I believe the current total is £48 billion of unfunded spending commitments and counting. We cannot rely on Labour to support the NHS. In Labour-run Wales, the only place in the UK where the NHS budget has been cut—not once, but three times—people are twice as likely to be waiting for treatment. This is an approach to our NHS that the Leader of the Opposition describes as a “blueprint” for health. And we cannot rely on Labour to defend this nation. While our Prime Minister was heading off to the NATO alliance to strengthen that alliance, 12 Labour Front Benchers were undermining it by supporting the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which is incompatible with NATO membership—they included a shadow Defence Minister. So more debt, no growth, worse care, weaker defence and open borders is what we can rely on Labour to deliver.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 6th July 2023

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 10 July will include:

Monday 10 July—Debate on the first special report of the Committee of Privileges, followed by remaining stages of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill [Lords], followed by Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill.

Tuesday 11 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill.

Wednesday 12 July—Opposition day (20th allotted day). Debate in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 13 July—Debate on a motion on the second report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, “The cost of complacency: illicit finance and the war in Ukraine” and the Government response, followed by general debate on the third report of the Health and Social Care Committee, “Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care” and the Government response. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee at the recommendation of the Liaison Committee.

Friday 14 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 17 July includes:

Monday 17 July—Consideration of Lords message on the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by consideration of Lords message on the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords message on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Tuesday 18 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords message on the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message.

Wednesday 19 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords message on the Illegal Migration Bill, followed by debate on the Committee on Standards report on all-party parliamentary groups, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message.

Thursday 20 July—The Sir David Amess summer Adjournment debate. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the summer recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 20 July and return on Monday 4 September.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Leader of the House.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

I would like to address the Standards Committee report published this morning on the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher). I am shocked and saddened at its findings and my thoughts—and, I hope, the thoughts of the whole House—are with the victims. As well as addressing the impact on them of the Member’s behaviour, the Committee found that the actions of the Member significantly affected the public’s perception of this House. I am afraid to say that, shamefully, it appears that the Conservative party protected and even promoted him, despite a previous investigation into his conduct.

I am concerned that the Leader of the House did not announce a motion to approve the Committee’s report. I do hope that the Government are not attempting to delay any possible by-election. Will the Leader of the House confirm that she will bring forward the motion as soon as possible, that the Government will recommend approving the report and its sanctions, and that the Prime Minister will show some backbone this time and actually condemn the actions of the Member? If the Member does not do the decent thing and resign, will the Leader of the House ensure that she allocates time with the speed and urgency that the activities require? Does she want me to remind her week after week that sexual harassment is not acceptable?

To continue, I wish the England cricket team the best of luck as they start the third test against Australia today. On that note, the remaining legislation announced by the Leader of the House up to the summer is more like a series of dot balls. Where is the drive? The Government have a huge majority and they are not doing anything with it. Instead, the Prime Minister is wasting precious time on the Floor of the House trying to pass red meat for a small group of right-wing Back Benchers, rather than new laws that will actually help working people.

Why did not the Leader of the House announce the transport Bill or the mental health Bill, which have been left in limbo, or the much-needed schools Bill, which the Government have now completely abandoned? Where is the leasehold reform Bill? Millions of people around the country will be furious that the Government have, again, failed to introduce long-promised and much-needed leasehold reform. That was a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment and it has been promised by almost every Housing Secretary since. So where is the Bill?

Labour forced the Government into committing to end the sale of new private leaseholds and to replace existing ones with commonhold. Our motion passed with a majority of 174, without a single vote against, so where is the Government’s plan? Our motion also instructed the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make an oral statement to MPs by 23 June. Where is he? He is 13 days late and counting. He is hiding in the dressing room, sending out the nightwatchman when there is an entire Session left. Will the Leader of the House find the Housing Secretary and get him to the Dispatch Box to explain to leaseholders why he is dragging his feet?

Instead of scoring runs, the Prime Minister is running scared of scrutiny. Too weak to turn up to Prime Minister’s questions, he would not even try to bat away questions on his failing record yesterday—a so-called leader who cannot even defend his own wicket. Any credible Prime Minister would accept the need for scrutiny and answer the questions from colleagues on behalf of the people we represent.

It is not just PMQs, though, is it? The Prime Minister barely makes an appearance these days. He did not show up or even give an opinion on his predecessor’s lies last month. I did notice that he managed to find time to watch the cricket, so I hope this speech might catch his attention. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Prime Minister will stand up to the senior members of his own party who attempted to undermine and attack the democratic institutions of this House and vote for the Privileges Committee motion on Monday? The public deserve to know what he thinks and they want a Prime Minister who stands up for standards.

Just like at Lord’s on Sunday, the ball is dead, it is the end of the over and we are heading towards the end of the innings. The Tories have sent out their last batsman. He is out for a golden duck. The Prime Minister has nothing to show the people of this country. He has failed to bring down the cost of living, failed to bring down waiting lists and failed to stop the dangerous boat crossings. Should he not, like Ben Stokes, consider what is in the spirit of the game? It is time he declared and called a general election.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by saying how delighted I was to attend yesterday’s service of thanksgiving and dedication for His Majesty King Charles III at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. I thank all involved in what was a magnificent day.

I add my voice to the many tributes that have been paid this week to all those who work in and alongside the national health service for its 75 years of service. I also commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. I am sure the thoughts of Members across the House are with all those responding to the incident in London this morning.

The hon. Lady sends a message to the England cricket team that I am sure we would all echo. We all want them to do well. May I make a plea to her and her party to assist in that by telling Just Stop Oil to just stop? Not content with interrupting car runs, it is now intent on interrupting cricket runs. I am all for frustrating the Australian batsmen, but that is the England cricket team’s job. In all seriousness, we have seen some awful scenes this week, particularly at the tennis. It is particularly callous to interrupt sporting events, which can turn the course of a match and risk injury to players. I appreciate the connections between this selfish and counter- productive group of people and the Labour party’s coffers, which might also explain why Labour’s energy policy undermines our energy security and prosperity, and the fact that Labour has voted against every measure we have brought forward to end dangerous and disruptive protests. I hope we will see no more scenes such as we have seen at those sporting events, and I wish all those taking part in this sport-packed weekend good luck. On our proposals for renters and for leasehold reform, we remain committed to those and I will update the House in the usual way.

I turn to the very serious matter that the hon. Lady focused on: standards. Let me first make a broad point. The House knows my view on these matters. The only way we will improve the situation here is by recognising that we are not just one organisation, but a community of many. Processes and the volume of standards bodies, with 13 separate entities and counting, does not improve behaviour—only cultural change will do that. The key to that is deepening our understanding of the duty of care we have towards each other. We are custodians of the trust and authority of this place.

I have set out my intention to conclude my own assessment, with external advice, of where we need to focus in this place. I will make those findings available to the Commission, the hon. Lady and the Committee on Standards. I held a private session with the Committee this week to tell it of my concerns and suggested solutions. I have also told the Committee and the Speaker that I think the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme review needs to be brought forward. Finally, as the hon. Lady will know, and I thank her for her support, I am establishing a forum between political parties, the Government and the House to ensure that we can work together in the best way possible to support MPs, prospective MPs, their staff and the staff of the House. I am supported in all that work by the Prime Minister.

The hon. Lady mentions the privileges motion. I will not dwell on that today. We will be able to debate that and both be able to say what we think on Monday. As for the report published today at 9 am, the Government did not set the timetable for the publication of that report; it is the Standards Committee’s report and it has published it today. She will appreciate that the hon. Member concerned has 10 days to appeal and we must let due process run its course. But she knows that we take these matters incredibly seriously. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 29th June 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 3 July—Second Reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.

Tuesday 4 July—Estimates day (4th allotted day). There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Work and Pensions; and the Ministry of Justice, in so far as it relates to His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

Wednesday 5 July—Estimates day (5th allotted day). There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, in so far as it relates to energy infrastructure; and the Department for Education, in so far as it relates to adult education, post-16 education, further education and colleges. At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 6 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill; followed by a general debate on building safety and social housing, to mark six years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy; followed by a motion on the role and status of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The subjects for those debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 7 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 10 July includes:

Monday 10 July—Debate on the first special report of the Committee of Privileges; followed by remaining stages of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill [Lords]; followed by Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business. I am glad she has announced that the Government will follow precedent and allow MPs to approve the Privileges Committee special report released this morning. Its conclusions are clear; it found that senior Tory parliamentarians took it upon themselves to undermine the procedures of this House, and shamefully that includes a serving Minister and a former Leader of the House. The report noted that the matter was made more difficult because two of the Members mounting the most vociferous attacks on the Committee did so from the platform of their own hosted TV shows. That undermines democracy and undermines this House. We owe it to the members of the Privileges Committee to give them our support.

Frankly, it is about time that the Prime Minister showed up and showed some leadership. If he does not stand up for standards, what does he actually stand for? I urge this House to endorse the report a week on Monday. That matters, because the public need to be able to trust the system we have. When Ministers mislead the House, whether intentionally or not, and fail to correct the record, or when an MP, a Minister or, worst of all, a serving Prime Minister lies to this House, and thereby to the public, the public need to know that we have proper processes for dealing with that, which we do. By undermining this Committee, the Members risk undermining democracy itself.

As we found out during last week’s vote, when it comes to upholding standards, this Prime Minister stands down. Is that what he is planning to do again with this report? Is he really still happy for senior MPs in his own party to undermine and attack Britain’s democratic institutions? Is it not time that he personally condemned those who sought to override Parliament’s standards system to get one of their own off the hook?

We have breaking news that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been ruled unlawful. I am sure the Leader of the House was expecting me to welcome the long-awaited impact assessment for that Illegal Migration Bill—I would call it the bigger migration backlog Bill or, now, the unlawful migration Bill. I use the words “impact assessment” with a heavy dose of irony, as it does not tell us how much the Bill would cost or what the impact of any of its policies would be, so it is not much of an impact assessment, is it? The Leader of the House has previously described impact assessments as very handy and most helpful, and I could not agree more. Why did the Government wait so long to publish the impact assessment and then publish this one, which is neither handy nor helpful? Is that perhaps why she should not be surprised—nor should any of us—by the breaking news from the court?

While the current Prime Minister focuses on keeping Boris Johnson’s sycophants in his own party happy, introduces new laws which by his Government’s own admission will not work and now seem to have been found illegal, and swerves scrutiny, people up and down the country are left facing the cost of Tory mortgage penalties and soaring rents. The Leader of the Opposition, a man of honour and integrity, will restore trust in politics. He will show leadership on the issues that matter to working people and act immediately to bring down the cost of living.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I first put on record my delight at hosting my Royal Navy squadron, the 2nd Mine Counter Measures Squadron, this week? I thank all Members who came to see and thank them—particularly you, Mr Speaker, and I thank you for addressing them.

I am delighted that this week we announced the consultation on the Oliver McGowan code of practice on statutory learning disability and autism training. I want to place on record my huge respect for the McGowan family, especially Paula McGowan OBE, Oliver’s mum, for all that she has done to prevent the tragedy that happened to her family from occurring to others. I also send my good wishes to all celebrating Eid.

The hon. Lady raised the matter of the Privileges Committee’s special report, which was out at 9 am. I hope that the fact that a debate on it was announced in the business statement reassures the House about how seriously the Government take matters of privilege. I reiterate that it is in the House’s interests that we have such a Committee; it is there to defend our rights and privileges, and it is absolutely vital that Members of this House be prepared to serve on such Committees, so we are very happy to bring forward a debate on the report.

The hon. Lady mentioned the breaking news of the Court of Appeal judgment. It was a mixed judgment, because although what she says about the ruling on the policy is absolutely true, the Court also confirmed that Rwanda is a safe third country. This is clearly a matter for the Home Office to update the House on. We respect the Court’s decision, and I think there will be a statement later today from the Home Secretary on that.

The hon. Lady knows that I have pushed Departments to make sure that impact assessments are published in a timely way; they are important. I hope all Members of the House will also consider the impact of us not having systems that are fit for purpose. We have to direct our finite resources for these matters at the people we need to help. If our asylum systems are overloaded and we are not able to send back people who do not have the right to be here, we are not using the finite resources we have effectively.

The hon. Lady mentions the cost of living crisis, particularly as it relates to housing costs. I understand how frightening and stressful those costs can be; it makes life incredibly complicated when people have to juggle how they will get through the week. These are very difficult times, and we are determined to ensure that families and individuals can get through them. There are unprecedented global challenges that we are having to deal with; for example, we have to stick to the plan on Ukraine, and not waver in our support. As Members will have heard in the Chancellor’s statement on Monday, we have increased support for mortgage interest schemes, and there are all the other things that we have done regarding providers. There is also the new consumer duty placed on the Financial Conduct Authority, and of course there is the £94 billion for cost of living support measures. We will do everything that we can to ensure that families get through this difficult time, and further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 22nd June 2023

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 26 June will include:

Monday 26 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Bill, followed by consideration of a Lords message to the National Security Bill.

Tuesday 27 June—Opposition day (19th allotted day). There will be a debate in the name of the official Opposition—subject to be announced.

Wednesday 28 June—If necessary, consideration of a Lords message, followed by Second Reading of the Holocaust Memorial Bill.

Thursday 29 June—General debate on the fishing industry, followed by general debate on artificial intelligence. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 30 June—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 3 July includes:

Monday 3 July— Second Reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.

Tuesday 4 July—Estimates day (4th allotted day)—subjects to be confirmed.

Wednesday 5 July—Estimates day (5th allotted day)—subjects to be confirmed.

At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 6 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill, followed by a general debate on building safety and social housing, to mark six years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, followed by business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 7 July—The House will not be sitting.

It might also be helpful for the House to know that, following further discussions with the Procedure Committee and Mr Speaker, it is the Government’s intention to bring forward a motion next week for the House to consider the extension of the proxy voting scheme for ill health and injury.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business. Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first people from the Windrush generation. They made their homes in cities such as Bristol. They built their lives here, they had their children here, and we are proud of the contributions they made throughout their whole lives. After years of their dedicated public service in the NHS, transport and industry, I have to ask, why are the Government treating these now 60, 70 and 80-year-olds so badly?

The Home Office has failed to process more than 2,000 of the claims for compensation. More than a third have been waiting more than six months for a decision. It is expensive and complex, and just getting to that point is hard enough. A lack of access to affordable legal advice is stopping people from even applying for compensation. Can the Minister tell us when the Home Office will clear that backlog and give people the compensation they are owed? What are the Government doing to make the process fairer and more efficient? Will she ensure that those who need it get specialist help? There is a deep sense of injustice in communities such as mine in Bristol. Will the Leader of the House please ask the Home Secretary to come to the House and make a statement, so that the people we represent can get the answers they deserve?

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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I have done only 90 seconds.

I thank the Leader of the House for stepping up while the Prime Minister stepped aside in Monday’s vote to start restoring trust in democracy. It is a very low bar, but a big improvement on her predecessor but one, who tried to rip up the standards system when faced with a similar situation. As grateful as I am, it must have been difficult for the Leader of the House, with no Prime Minister to rally the troops, no Cabinet colleagues on the Front Bench to cheer her on and a roll call of Johnson’s sycophants behind her. I am afraid to say that the Leader of the House looked a rather lonely figure on the Government Front Bench—a Tory version of Greta Garbo; glamourous, but all alone. For most of the debate, she was seemingly the only Cabinet Minister holding the torch for any level of standards in public life. However, I know she will be pleased that her powers of persuasion worked wonders over some of her Back Benchers. In fact, more than 100 of them backed her motion.

The current Prime Minister was perhaps slightly less pleased and more nervous that the sword-carrying second favourite to replace him secured an unexpected amount of support. If so many Tory Back Benchers found the strength to do the right thing, why couldn’t the Prime Minister? Not only did he fail to vote, but he was too weak to utter a single word of substance on this issue. We do not know where this Prime Minister stands on standards. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Prime Minister plans to sit out all future votes on integrity, professionalism and accountability? Where was he?

The Leader of the House famously once reassured this House that another Prime Minister was not hiding “under a desk”—words immortalised on the BBC’s “Newscast” intro. I hear news from the parliamentary Press Gallery reception that she is a big fan of the podcasts, so I will end by tempting her to update “Newscast” and this House: is that where the Prime Minister really was on Monday evening—hiding under a desk?

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.

Privilege: Conduct of Right Hon. Boris Johnson

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Monday 19th June 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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We all owe the Committee a debt of gratitude for the work that it has done on our instruction, but it is for Members to decide whether its conclusions are correct or not.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I have listened carefully to the Leader of the House. Will she confirm whether she will be voting in support of the motion in her own name tonight? A couple of years ago, when I had a previous Leader of the House in front of me, he brought forward a motion that he then in effect voted against.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Again, as the Member for Portsmouth North, I will be voting to support the Committee’s report and recommendations, but all Members need to make up their own minds and others should leave them alone to do so.

I do not intend to detain the House for long, but I think it would be helpful to briefly address some false assumptions that colleagues may be relying on. First, the process has not determined who gets to sit in the House of Commons. In vacating his seat, Mr Johnson has removed the right of his constituents to retain him as their Member of Parliament if they wish to do so.

Secondly, it has been suggested that the Government are wrong to give the House time to consider the report, and that it is to their detriment to have done so. No. Not to allow the Commons to vote on a report that it commissioned one of its Committees to produce would be wrong, just as it would be wrong to whip any Member on such a matter. This is the work of Parliament, and it is right that the Government give precedence to matters of privilege. Governments are scrutinised and held in check by Parliament. These important balances are a strength to our political system. A Government’s ambitions may well be limited by Parliament, but in being so they are not diminished. When Governments seek to interfere with the rights and privileges of this House, it is diminished.

Thirdly, it has been suggested that the Government should have stopped the work of the Committee of Privileges or should stop its future planned work. No. These are matters for the House. The House can at any time halt or direct the work of the Committee. It is doing such work because the House has directed it, and it is in the House’s interest to have such a Committee and that Members should wish to serve on it.

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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I suggest the hon. Gentleman listens to the “Today” programme on catch-up, because my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the Leader of the Opposition, made it very clear. Tony Blair did not have a resignation honours list and Gordon Brown did not have a resignation honours list. We believe this Prime Minister should have stood up to the former Prime Minister and his dishonourable honours list. This is no way to run a country. It is time the Conservatives stopped squabbling among themselves and focused on doing the right thing by the people who put them here.

As I mentioned earlier, Johnson attacked the Privileges Committee. The severity of the sanction imposed on him takes this into account, but it was not just him. Other Tory MPs have labelled the Committee a “kangaroo court”, so would the Leader of the House be able to tell us at some point, such as at business questions on Thursday, whether the Prime Minister understands the significance of these comments? What is he going to do about his own MPs who are undermining our democratic institutions? As this weak Prime Minister fails to step in to protect Parliament’s standards systems, I ask the Leader of the House whether she could step up. Will she explicitly condemn colleagues who have acted in this way? As Parliament’s representative in Government, will she demand that Ministers respect the institutions and practices of the House?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The Prime Minister is on record defending the work of the Privileges Committee. He has called out those who have overstepped the mark of genuine and legitimate questions about process, and so forth, and who have attacked and intimidated members of the Committee, bringing the House into disrepute.

The hon. Lady seems to be implying that the Prime Minister and other colleagues are not doing particular things because they might stand in any leadership contest. I gently point out that the Prime Minister does not need to win a leadership contest. He is the Prime Minister.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the right hon. Lady for that clarification. It is not me she needs to remind but some of her own colleagues, who are obviously fighting the next leadership contest already. As Parliament’s representative in Government, I ask her to remind her colleagues of the importance of telling the truth at the Dispatch Box and of the process by which, when Ministers make honest, inadvertent mistakes, they come back to clarify them as soon as possible. She could start by asking the Home Secretary to do that in relation to the asylum decision backlog, which I understand she still has not clarified.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 15th June 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 19 June will include:

Monday 19 June—Motion relating to the fifth report from the Committee of Privileges, followed by a general debate on the UK tech industry following London Tech Week.

Tuesday 20 June—Remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Wednesday 21 June—Consideration of Lords message to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill; followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill; followed by Opposition half day (17th allotted day, part one)—a debate in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Thursday 22 June—General debate on the infected blood inquiry, followed by a debate on a motion on the BBC’s proposals for the future of local radio. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 23 June—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 26 June includes:

Monday 26 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message to the National Security Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

Boris Johnson lied. He lied to MPs, he lied to the people of this country, and he lied to nurses, doctors, care workers, bus drivers—everyone who was putting their own life at risk during the pandemic. Why does this matter? Because people sacrificed so much, and they deserved a Prime Minister who values truth and honour and leads by example. It turns out that they did not have one. As I read the report this morning—and I have— I thought of all those people, including constituents of mine, who could not say goodbye as loved ones lay dying because they stuck to the rules. When they hear these headlines, they will be forced to relive their own hurt and anger.

I thank the members of the Privileges Committee for the thoughtful and considered work that they have carried out over a year, under constant intimidation from the former Prime Minister and his friends. They did as we asked, diligently, and we should all be grateful. I am disappointed to hear that the attacks on that Committee—a Committee with a Conservative majority; a cross-party Committee, properly constituted—continue today, led by Mr Johnson. His behaviour is shocking, but not surprising. I was shadow Leader of the House two years ago when he tried to rip up the rules to save his friend Paterson. Hundreds of Tory MPs voted with him—including the current Leader of the House, I am afraid to say. As we do not know what the motion on Monday will say, I ask her now: can she assure us that there will be no similar attempt? Will she confirm that the Government will give the House the opportunity to approve and endorse the report in full?

This all brings into question the validity of Johnson’s resignation honours list, and the Prime Minister’s support for it. With a lawbreaker and a liar rewarding his cronies, will the Leader of the House call on the Prime Minister to show some leadership for once and cancel these dishonourable honours?

On the subject of the Prime Minister’s incredibly poor judgment, is he so out of touch that he thought it was right that taxpayers’ hard-earned money fund legal advice for Johnson’s lies to the public—a shameful waste of money, especially during a Tory cost of living crisis? This was a mess of his making. Does the Leader of the House think that was a good use of public money? Will the Prime Minister now demand that Boris Johnson pays back every penny? We will return to this topic on Monday in full, when I will face the right hon. Lady again.

Turning to a related matter, a week really is a long time in politics, especially for the right hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries)—or is it the former Member? Who knows? She has had a busy week. Apparently barred from being a Baroness, she then declared her departure, then threw a tantrum on TalkTV, seemingly resiled on her resignation and launched a one-woman investigation into why she did not get a peerage. This could now drag on for months, like the guest who outstays their welcome when conversation has dried up. She has said she is off home, but she is taking forever to put on her coat, and you know what? She will stay for that last cup of tea after all. Is this really what people can expect from Tory MPs?

Could the Leader of the House please clarify whether her colleague is resigning or not? Does she agree that the good people of Mid Bedfordshire deserve proper representation from their MP, as do the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and of Selby and Ainsty, and people up and down the country who cannot stomach a moment more of this Tory soap opera, with a Prime Minister too busy failing to get a grip on the sleaze and scandal engulfing his own party to focus on the cost of living, crime, or NHS waiting lists? With so much to do, he cannot even fill a full parliamentary day. What is the point of him? He is out of touch, out of ideas and unable to govern. He is breaking his promises and letting people down. It is time that he showed some actual leadership and let the people have their say, and called a general election.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I associate myself with the remarks and the tributes paid in this House to the victims of the Nottingham attack and their brave families and friends, and also to all those who perished in the Grenfell fire six years ago and those who loved them. This week, we also commemorate the liberation of the Falkland Islands, which is of particular importance to many of the families that it is my privilege to represent.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of the hour. It is worth reminding the House that the Privileges Committee is there to defend this House, our rights and our privileges. The Committee and the investigation it carried out was set up unanimously by this House. We asked it to do this work. The membership of the Committee was established unanimously by this House and, as many Members have pointed out, it had a Conservative majority on it. I put on record my thanks to the Committee.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 8th June 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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To ask the Leader of the House if she will give us the forthcoming business.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 12 June will include:

Monday 12 June—Consideration of Lords message to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, followed by a debate on a motion to approve the draft Public Order Act 1986 (Serious Disruption to the Life of the Community) Regulations 2023, followed by a general debate on the risk-based exclusion of Members of Parliament.

Tuesday 13 June—Remaining stages of the Procurement Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 14 June—Opposition day (10th allocated day, second part). Debate in the name of the Scottish National party, subject to be announced, followed by a general debate on defence policy. Hon. Members have been asking for a debate in Government time on both Ukraine and NATO. Both issues will be in scope of this debate.

Thursday 15 June—General debate on Pride Month, followed by a general debate on Government policies on migration. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 16 June—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 19 June includes:

Monday 19 June—Remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

It was incredibly frustrating to see this worn-out Tory Government shut up shop and clear out of here before 2 o’clock on Tuesday. The House has regularly risen early for months because of thin Government business, at least down this end—in the other place, they seem to be clogged up. How are Tory Ministers spending their time? Clearly not delivering in their Departments. Are they racing home to watch daytime TV instead? Has the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) been watching too much “Escape to the Country”? I hear he is planning a chicken run to a rural so-called “safe” seat in Oxfordshire. Does the Leader of the House fancy her chances against the “Eggheads”? Perhaps she can try to raise some money to cover the extortionate cost to the taxpayer of the former Prime Minister’s legal fees.

The Government ought to be using the precious time they have in this House to pass laws that will make people’s lives better. They have the power, but why are they not using it? Have they just given up? Why did the Leader of the House not use Tuesday to bring forward the much-needed transport or schools Bills? Everyone in this House knows the damage that 13 years of Tory Government have done to our transport and education systems. Will they not at least try to fix them?

The Government could have also brought forward their long-promised Mental Health Bill. The Committee that studied a draft version published its final report way back in January—six months ago—and there is still no sign of a Bill. Has the Health Secretary even read that report? Do Ministers support calls for stronger measures, or not? Will the Health Secretary come to this House and answer MPs’ questions, or not? People are worried sick about the state that this Government have left mental health services in. Could the Leader of the House tell us whether she will announce a Mental Health Bill in this Session, or will the Tories really leave vulnerable people waiting even longer to receive the care they so desperately need?

Every week, it is left to Labour to bring forward a plan. This week, we called for the Government to introduce Labour’s plan to recruit thousands of mental health staff, to provide access to specialist mental health support in every school and to establish open access mental health hubs for children and young people, paid for by closing tax loopholes. What do Government Members have against any of that? Where is their plan? They had one, and they scrapped it.

As well as failing to bring froward new laws to help people with mental health problems, Ministers are failing to put into practice laws already passed. Let us take Seni’s law, set out in a private Member’s Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed) five years ago and passed unanimously. It is intended to monitor the disproportionate use of force and to tackle dangerous restraint in mental health settings, but the Government still do not seem to have made it a reality on the ground.

The Government have promised progress for years. Why are they still failing to protect mentally ill people properly? Could the Leader of the House please tell us when she will announce that they will? Could she help the shadow mental health Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan), to get answers to questions she has put to Ministers about meetings that they have had with mental health trusts where there are reported abuse scandals? She has asked six times. I know the right hon. Lady takes the issue of answers very seriously, but Ministers have failed to give my hon. Friend a decent answer, so could she ask her Health colleagues to respond with an answer that those people who have suffered terrible abuse deserve?

The Government have scrapped their 10-year mental health plan and have talked about a Mental Health Bill that it is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, waiting lists soar and people’s lives are damaged. Ministerial incompetence on mental health is a symbol of their approach in every Department and on every policy. We have a Prime Minister so out of touch, out of ideas and out of steam that he cannot even fill up a parliamentary day, breaking promises and letting people down. Meanwhile, Labour will work flat out on our plan to improve mental health care and to make the lives of people everywhere better.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, on behalf of the House, I congratulate West Ham on their tremendous triumph yesterday. It is great to see so many happy fans.

The hon. Lady focused some of her remarks on mental health. She knows that this Government have vastly improved and raised the profile and status of mental health, and are delivering an extra £2.3 billion to the annual mental health budget. The Mental Health Bill is not nowhere to been seen; it has had scrutiny in the Joint Committee and that has just completed. She knows that I will announce business in the usual way, but the very serious issues that she raises about the treatment of particular people in inappropriate care settings will be addressed by some of the provisions in the Bill and I hope to update the House about that in the coming weeks.

I take issue with the hon. Lady’s assertion that in every Department we are not using our time well and we are not delivering for the public. On legislation, this week we passed the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill, and next week we will be debating the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and the Procurement Bill. We have introduced 40 Bills so far, including legislation to tackle illegal migration. We should all thank their cocoa-fuelled lordships for sitting very late last night to get that Bill to make progress.

Outside this Chamber, we are delivering and using our time well. On our mission to stop the boats, we have discovered this week that crossings are down by 20%, some 33,000 crossings have been prevented and Albanian small boat arrivals are down by 90%. We are a whole year ahead of meeting our manifesto commitment to recruit 26,000 more primary care staff, delivering on two of the priorities of the Prime Minister and the people. The hon. Lady mentions education. Statistics out today show that nearly 48,000 full-time equivalent teachers joined English schools in the academic year 2022-23, meaning there are 2,800 more teachers in class- rooms now than last year.

Labour Members are billing their party as some kind of dynamo, standing up for hard-working families, but they have consistently demonstrated their lack of support for hard-working families—not so much up the workers, as stuff the workers. There has been no condemnation of hard-left unions co-ordinating strikes that are bringing misery to millions of British citizens, and no condemnation of the extreme protest tactics of Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil, who get in the way of hard-working people trying to get to work, collecting their kids from school or getting their loved ones to hospital. Labour Members have consistently voted to weaken the Public Order Act 2023 and voted against protecting the public. While we have been strengthening police powers to lock people up, Labour has been promoting the merits of people locking-on. Labour has always got in the way of people going about their business, and it has turned the nanny state into an art form.

Today, where Labour is in power, it is getting in the way again. In Wales, rather than helping people to get a GP appointment, the Labour Government are trying to stop people from buying a meal deal. In London, the Labour Mayor is frustrating businesses and hiking household taxes through the ill-thought out, unravelling ultra-low emission zone scheme. Labour is an obstacle and a blocker—a load of old bollards.

If Members of the shadow Cabinet really want to disprove that and, as the hon. Lady suggests, show they are on the side of hard-grafting people and their families, they should do three things: they should stand up and condemn the process of Just Stop Oil, hand back all Labour’s associated donations, and make their 34th policy U-turn of the year by reversing Labour’s illogical stance on North sea oil and gas that is a barrier to our national security, growth and investment, increasing household incomes and our ability to cut emissions. As I say Mr Speaker, a load of old bollards.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 25th May 2023

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Before I give the business of the House, I should like to make a brief statement, Mr Speaker.

First, I associate myself with the remarks made in the House this week about the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack and the murder of Lee Rigby. My thoughts are with all those affected by those tragic events.

Yesterday, we had the sad news that the world has lost an icon, Tina Turner; but in the early hours of this morning, we in this place also lost our own larger-than-life character: our former colleague Karen Lumley, the Member for Redditch from 2010 to 2017. As well as the work she did for her constituents and in the service of Parliament on the Welsh Affairs, Finance and Transport Committees, and in government as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Health, Karen was a force of nature and a force for good. We will miss her, her amazing hairdos, and the joy she brought us all. We will cherish our memories of her. I know the whole House will want to send our love to her family, especially Richard, Lizzie and Chris, and all who knew and loved her.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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She meant a lot to all of us.

The business for the week commencing 5 June will include:

Monday 5 June—General debate on the role of local government in reaching net zero, followed by a general debate on delivering new housing supply. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 6 June—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill.

Wednesday 7 June—Opposition day (17th allotted day). Debate in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 8 June—General debate on National Carers Week, followed by a general debate on the work of the Council of Europe. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee

Friday 9 June—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 12 June includes:

Monday 12 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, followed by a debate on risk-based exclusion of Members of Parliament.

Tuesday 13 June—Remaining stages of the Procurement Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 14 June—Opposition day (10th allotted day, second part). Debate in the name of the Scottish National party—subject to be announced. Followed by a general debate—subject to be confirmed.

Thursday 15 June—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 16 June—The House will not be sitting.

Members will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the summer recess on 20 July and return on Monday 4 September; rise for the conference recess at the close of business on Tuesday 19 September and return on Monday 16 October; and rise for the Christmas recess at the close of business on Tuesday 19 December and return on Monday 8 January 2024.

I will announce further recess dates and future business in the usual way.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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It is a sad moment when we lose one of our colleagues. I know Karen Lumley was loved across this place, and colleagues, including my former hon. Friend Louise Ellman and others, really appreciated the personal support she gave them and her dedicated work on the Transport Committee. We join the Leader of the House in sending our love and condolences to her family.

I will come on to Tina Turner shortly, but I also want to mention the parliamentary football team, who I hear have a match against the Scottish parliamentary football team. My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) tells me he is the star player —who knew? We will find out.

We all join the Leader of the House in paying tribute to the queen of rock and roll, Tina Turner. She was an icon, a heroine to the domestic violence movement and a role model to all of us women doing our best work in later life. Perhaps the Leader of the House could draw inspiration from Tina today and search river deep, mountain high—there will be more—for all the Government’s missing legislation. Where is it?

Let us start with the Leader of the House’s failure to bring forward the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which includes important protections for dogs and cats, and would clamp down on the cruel practice of puppy smuggling. Labour has been calling on the Government for years to stop unscrupulous breeders cashing in by bringing puppies and kittens into this country with no concern for their welfare, which that Bill would have sorted out. Having already carried over the Bill from one chaotic Tory parliamentary Session to the next chaotic Tory parliamentary Session, the Bill will now expire on 8 June. I understand that, in the ministerial statement later today, the Government now plan to scrap the Bill, which is shocking. I have raised this at least five times over the past eight months. Is this Prime Minister so weak that he cannot even bring himself to stand up against evil puppy smugglers? What a way to run a Government.

Brace yourself for more Tina puns, Mr Speaker. Labour wants our schools to be simply the best—I am trying not to sing, but it is really hard—but the Government scrapped the Schools Bill. It was left to Labour to stand up for the safety of schoolchildren this week, when we tried to force Ministers to reveal the extent to which school buildings are crumbling on the Government’s watch. For over a year, the Department for Education has known that the risk of building collapse is very likely, so why did the Leader of the House and her colleagues continue the Conservative cover-up and hide from parents exactly which school buildings are dangerous?

Also missing in those deep rivers and high mountains was the leasehold reform part 2 Bill. This week, it was, again, Labour that brought forward a motion calling on the Housing Secretary to keep his promise to the thousands of people in Bristol West and the millions across the country who are living in leasehold properties. Labour forced the Government into committing to end the sale of new private leasehold houses and replace existing leaseholds for flats with commonhold. All that was needed despite a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment and promises made almost every year by successive Housing Secretaries since then. The Tories are rowing back on their promises, and the Housing Secretary did not even bother to turn up—he rarely does these days. Will the Leader of the House tell us when the Housing Secretary will come to this House to tell us how he is going to implement Labour’s plan for leasehold reform, which this House voted for on Tuesday? Just to remind the Leader of the House, as well as what I have already mentioned we want to give greater powers to residents over the management of their homes in the interim and crack down on unfair fees. When will leasehold residents in Bristol West and beyond see the Government get on with implementing these measures?

Finally, we clearly do need another hero—[Interruption.] Well spotted. Instead of having this weak Prime Minister spending all his time watching his back, we could have a Labour Prime Minister showing real leadership and strong action. We have shown this week that we are the party with a plan and we have the leader to deliver it.

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.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 18th May 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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May I ask the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 22 May will include:

Monday 22 May—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Tuesday 23 May—Opposition day (16th allotted day). Debate in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 24 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

Thursday 25 May—Debate on a motion on recognition of the Ukrainian Holodomor, followed by a general debate on tackling Islamophobia. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the Whitsun recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 25 May and return on Monday 5 June.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. May I say how refreshing it is to see a Tory Cabinet Minister speaking at the actual Dispatch Box, rather than at the National Conservatism conference podium?

I assume that the Prime Minister signed off on the announcement by the Leader of the House today, but it would not surprise me if he had not, as we have Cabinet Ministers jockeying for position and coming up with whole new agendas—left, right and, well, even further to the right. Civil war season in the Tory party comes around faster every year, but every time it is working people who suffer. Ministers pass the buck, blame anyone but themselves and act as commentators, as if they have no power. That is reflected in the business.

Perhaps we could find time for a debate on ministerial responsibility; perhaps the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities could lead it. At that conference, he admitted that

“there simply aren’t enough homes. It is increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder.”

I presume he realises that he is the Housing Secretary. Why has he not done anything about it? He is only making the situation worse by prioritising his Back Benchers over Britain’s young people. Is it not time that he came here and answered questions from MPs?

After calling for it last week, I was glad that the Renters (Reform) Bill was announced this week. Can the Leader of the House tell Bristol’s renters when that Bill will receive its Second Reading? I did not notice it in the business. Labour wants to see a four-month notice period, a national register of landlords, and a host of new rights for tenants, including the right to make alterations to their homes, to request speedy repairs and to have pets.

Many Bristolians also want to buy their first home—that is true of people up and down the country—but we need more affordable green homes. If the Government do not have any ideas of their own, perhaps they could introduce a Bill that includes Labour’s plans to fix the housing crisis. We would take on planning reform, bring back local housing targets and remove the veto used by big landowners to stop shovels hitting the ground. We would also prioritise first-time buyers. Where is the Government’s plan for aspiring homeowners? Can the Housing Secretary come and tell us what it is?

Can the Leader of the House clarify whether Tory Ministers are taking full responsibility for their own conduct? Yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald)—I have notified them both of my intention to mention them—saying that the Government found no signs of corruption or illegality in the redevelopment of a massive site in the north-east. She did not declare in that letter, however, that she had received thousands of pounds in a donation from a local businessman who has a holding in Teesworks Ltd, the company redeveloping the site. I must stress that she has registered that donation in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, but the ministerial code states that

“Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests”,

so can the Leader of the House clarify whether any rules have been broken? If so, what steps will be taken?

To continue the theme of failing to take responsibility, I see that the Home Secretary also enjoyed a day out at the circus. Contradicting her own Prime Minister, she said that she would cut immigration. I wonder whether she realises that she is actually the Home Secretary. Shortly after, the Prime Minister hit back with an announcement of visas for 10,000 more seasonal workers. Who are we to believe? Who holds the authority: the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister? What is the Government’s policy? We need clarity. Instead of answering questions from friends at the Conservatives’ conspiracy comic con—I love a bit of alliteration on a Thursday—perhaps the Home Secretary could get on with her job, come to this House and answer questions from MPs.

Why is the Prime Minister not taking responsibility for the behaviour of his Cabinet colleagues? Is he really so weak that he will let them get away with openly undermining his authority like that? Will the Leader of the House at least try to fill some of the massive leadership black hole that is lingering over the Conservative party right now? Perhaps she will follow the example of an important figure in England’s other great civil war. In Parliament 375 years ago today, Thomas Fairfax, an English politician and parliamentary commander-in-chief—yes, he too had a sword—spoke of the need to suppress the insurrectionists. I am not asking for that, but perhaps the Leader of the House is today prepared to stop her Cabinet colleagues squabbling among themselves and get them to take responsibility and actually start governing.

Finally, I do not normally do weeks or days, but this week is Dementia Action Week. I recently attended the funeral of a family member who lost their life to dementia, and so many colleagues and people up and down the country will have had that experience. Some 40% of people currently with dementia are not diagnosed. I am asking the Leader of the House, as a special personal request and on behalf of everybody who has met people who have dementia, to ask for a progress report from her colleagues on dementia diagnosis, as 91% of people who have one say that it is better to know.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will take the hon. Lady’s last point first. These awareness weeks afford us an opportunity to put a spotlight on what is happening on care, research, support and the progress made. There is some good news, in that our fantastic scientists have made real breakthroughs in recent years, but of course raising awareness and getting an early diagnosis can make a huge difference to the quality of people’s lives. I shall certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has heard that point and updates the House in one form or another.

This week, we have commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters raid. We all know in this place that Wing Commander Gibson led that mission, and he later died after completing 170 war operations, aged just 26. What Members and the public may not know is that he was also the prospective parliamentary candidate for Macclesfield. At his death, Churchill wrote:

“I had hoped that he would come into Parliament and make his way there after the stress of the war was over, but he never spared himself nor would allow others to spare him. We have lost in this officer one of the most splendid of all our fighting men. His name will not be forgotten; it will for ever be enshrined in the most wonderful records of our country.”

We should never forget what a privilege it is to serve in this House, nor the price others paid so that we could.

On the very serious point that the hon. Lady raised about the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison), this is recent news, but I know that the Department has issued a statement saying that all the reporting that should have been done had been done, and there was not a conflict of interest; it was something that happened before the election. I think she has honoured all her obligations in that respect.

With regard to the Teesside issue, it is a concern for all people, and even the Mayor last night was asking for more scrutiny to demonstrate that all that should have been done had been done. It is important that we focus on the facts. I understand the need and wish to make political capital out of this situation, but it is also about ensuring business confidence in a part of the world that we are keen to level up.

The hon. Lady talks about different policies and division in the Conservative party, which is high praise indeed from a party so qualified in the art, although—credit where credit is due—I think some unity has broken out in the Labour party. The shadow Deputy Prime Minister, the shadow Levelling Up Secretary, the shadow Health Secretary, the shadow Justice Secretary, the shadow Defence Secretary, the shadow Business Secretary, the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, the shadow Environment Minister and the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland are all united against the Labour leader’s latest policy U-turn. They are all what he would describe as “blockers” to development. To give them some comfort, most of his policies and pledges have been ditched within a few months, so my advice to them is to hang tight and that is bound to happen.

The hon. Lady is right: people want to own their own homes. It is important to their financial resilience and it provides them and their family with certainty about their future. While I recognise that there is more to do, I am very happy to contrast our record with Labour’s on building homes. Some 2.2 million additional homes have been delivered since 2010. House building starts have increased by over 108% since Labour was in power. There are 15% fewer dwellings failing to meet the decent homes standard. Housing supply was up 10% on last year and last year saw a 20-year high in people taking their first steps on the property ladder. Through Help to Buy, we have assisted 837,000 households to own their own home.

The hon. Lady talks about ministerial responsibility and the focus we have had this week on conservative philosophy. To me, being a Conservative has always meant taking responsibility for yourself and others. The facts of life are conservative, and ours is a party that values the individual and their potential. We are the party that puts people first, and we are the party of the first-person plural, “we”—not us or they, but we. We widen opportunity, responsibility and pride in our nation, and the stake people have in it. It is the Labour party, her party, that narrows and diminishes.

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 11th May 2023

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 15 May will include:

Monday 15 May—Second Reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Tuesday 16 May—Opposition day (15th allotted day). Debate in the name of the Scottish National party—subject to be announced.

Wednesday 17 May—Second Reading of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

Thursday 18 May—General debate on public access to nature, followed by a debate on a motion on access to psilocybin treatments. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 19 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 22 May includes:

Monday 22 May—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. Before I go any further, it is good to see the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), back in her place.

The Leader of the House did previously describe her resting face as

“that of a bulldog chewing a wasp”—[Official Report, 13 October 2022; Vol. 720, c. 260.]

But can I reassure her royal meme-ness that she looked nothing of the sort at the coronation? She was a symbol of solemnity and the first woman to have ever presented the Jewelled Sword of Offering to a British monarch. Her elegant outfit had nods to tradition, maternity and, as I understand it, her constituency. She diligently carried out her duty with grace and poise. She was a credit to this House as our representative. I wanted to start by making sure that was on the record, but now we will now get back to the jabs.

It was an even bigger achievement given how long the Leader of the House must have been awake the previous night counting all those Tory losses. She must have been worn out, with more than 1,000 Tory councillors gone. It was a clear rejection of the Conservatives and this Prime Minister and his complete failure to focus on what really matters to voters. I am afraid it is time to resume the normal jab, thrust and parrying—a little swordplay thing, there—of business questions, as this Government have a lot to answer for.

One whole year on from the Queen’s Speech, what do the Government have to show for it? People do not have to follow every twist and turn of the Government’s chaotic mishandling of legislation to know that the answer is next to nothing. The Hansard Society, which does detailed, independent research on the workings of Parliament, has said exactly which Bills are lurking down the back of Downing Street’s ever-expanding legislative sofa. Perhaps the Leader of the House could use her new-found swordsmanship to reach down the back of that sofa and hook some of that missing legislation out for us.

Of the 51 Bills that the Hansard Society reminded us have been presented to Parliament this Session, the Tories have so far failed to pass a staggering 29. Only a measly eight from the Queen’s Speech have got through. The Prime Minister has been caught out overpromising and massively under-delivering. He is too busy playing whack-a-mole with the increasing pop-up rebellions from his own Back Benchers, as we just saw in the past half-hour, rather than using the Government’s valuable time in Parliament to address the issues that matter to working people. No wonder they have told the Tories they are a Government with no answers, led by a Prime Minister so out of touch with working people that he is choosing to protect oil and gas profits and non-doms over working people.

Let us take a closer look at the Tories’ legislative logjam, which does not appear in the business statement, but perhaps should have. The Leader of the House could have announced the renters reform Bill that the Government have been promising for more than four years. When I was shadow Housing Secretary—a while ago now— I pushed for it, as well as for ensuring greater protections for tenants during the covid crisis at the time. Labour has long called for particular measures to be included in the Bill, including the banning of no-fault evictions. That is important to people we represent, including those I represent in Bristol West, where renters are paying more for less. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is letting them down. He said the Bill would be finally published this week. Where is it? Is it missing in action? We now hear that it has been delayed for weeks due to “procedural issues”. What does that mean? Is the Housing Secretary about to U-turn again? Is it the Prime Minister about to roll over to his Back Benchers again? Renters deserve better. The next Labour Government will bring in a powerful new renters’ charter to make renting fairer, more secure and more affordable, and that is the difference between Labour and the Tories.

It is not just on housing that the Tories are breaking their promise to voters. They have failed to introduce the transport Bill. They have left the mental health Bill in limbo somewhere, and they have abandoned the Schools Bill altogether. Even their flagship Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is in absolute chaos. Would the Leader of the House like to have a go and tell us what it is about transport, mental health, schools and levelling up that is working so well? Can she tell us which Bills they will get through this Session?

The Tories are out of touch and out of ideas to fix the problems they have created. Where they can be bothered, they are stealing Labour’s plans, but unfortunately watering them down and trying to pass them off as their own. This is no way to run a Government. Last week, Labour gained more than 500 councillors and 22 councils, and we are now the largest party in local government. It is time for a fresh start with a Labour national Government and a new King’s Speech for a new era: a coherent, bold programme of legislation, driven by Labour’s five missions that will make a real difference to people’s lives. That is Labour’s plan.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Can I start by thanking the hon. Lady for her compliments? I very much wanted to be a Pen the king could rely on at the coronation, but I think congratulations should go to all of us across the nation, and huge thanks to all who took part and all who enabled it to be so successful and safe, including many staff of this House. The whole weekend was a celebration of service, duty and love, and the Big Help Out on Monday saw 6 million people volunteering at more than 55,000 events. I hope they had a wonderful day and will continue to volunteer for their community. I am very proud to have played my part alongside everyone else, and I know the whole House would want to send their good wishes to Their Majesties.

Can I reciprocate and congratulate the hon. Lady, as I understand that her band, the Statutory Instruments, has topped a Twitter poll on musical parliamentarians? I have suggested to the Culture Secretary that this might be a back-up plan if Mae and her team are unable to perform at the Eurovision final.

The hon. Lady mentioned our legislative programme. Last week, the Public Order Bill received Royal Assent, taking us to 19 Bills receiving Royal Assent so far in this Session, with 40 Bills introduced so far. The rented homes Bill is not delayed, and I look forward to the Opposition’s support. It will deliver the Government’s commitment to a fairer private rented sector for responsible tenants and good-faith landlords. The Bill will legislate to abolish section 21 no-fault evictions, among many other measures. I hope that all Members of this House will support it when it arrives, which will not be very long or far away.

The hon. Lady spoke about local election statistics, and I have some of my own for Labour’s performance: mid-term and mid-recovery, zero change to vote share since 2019; zero gains in battleground seats; and, it appears, zero principles upon which to base a manifesto. Labour’s leader has flip-flopped 32 times, broken all of his leadership pledges and had to have 12—and counting—relaunch speeches. To borrow from Eurovision legends Bucks Fizz, he will soon find out that there comes a time for “Making Your Mind Up”.

In contrast, we are focused on delivering for the people of this country on the things that matter to them. On healthcare, for example, against the immense challenges stemming from the pandemic, we have reduced waiting lists of people waiting 18 months or more by 90%. General practice is delivering 10% more appointments a month than pre-pandemic levels. We are on track to deliver our manifesto commitment of 50 million more GP appointments, and we have more staff than ever before. Numbers are up by a quarter since 2019. We have increased pharmacy provision, and this week we are transforming how those services can be used, freeing up even more GP appointments.

What does Labour do for healthcare when it is in power in Wales? Some 40,000 people are waiting more than two years for treatment, waiting lists are four times worse than in England and it is the only place in the UK to have had the NHS budget cut. The gap between Labour’s rhetoric and its record is nearly as wide as the gap between its revenue and its spending plans, currently standing at £90 billion.

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 27th April 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 1 May will include:

Monday 1 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 2 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, followed by general debate on support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 3 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the National Security Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill.

The House will rise for the coronation recess at the conclusion of business on Wednesday 3 May and return on Tuesday 9 May.

The provisional business for the week commencing 8 May includes:

Monday 8 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 9 May—Second Reading of the Energy Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 10 May—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill.

Thursday 11 May—Debate on a motion on the future of overseas territories, followed by general debate on no recourse to public funds. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 12 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 15 May includes:

Monday 15 May—Second Reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. First, on behalf of the 43 staff members who have asked me directly because they want to book their holidays, and all the others who have not, please can we have some recess dates? As soon as we get back, perhaps—there are no business questions next week, so maybe the week after.

It is amazing to see that the Leader of the House still has it: the former magician’s assistant can abracadabra a brand-new Illegal Migration Bill just like that. That is what it felt like yesterday, with countless Government amendments to their own Bill. Report stage is the new Second Reading. Can she tell us why they were not in the Bill when it was published two months ago, or debated in Committee? Is piling the Bill with last minute amendments not just another tyrannical Tory tactic to swerve scrutiny?

We can add illusionist to the Leader of the House’s magical talents. She must have conjured up the image in my head of her telling me that she hoped to see the Bill’s impact assessment. After so many times of asking for it, I was hopeful. She seemed so confident. She said that she would ask the Home Secretary directly, yet here we are the day after, and here it is not. Could she magic it up now, so at least the Lords can see it before they debate the Bill? It seems that Home Office Ministers cannot even answer the most basic questions on how the Bill will work. Perhaps the Leader of the House will have a go at just one: does she know how many former RAF bases the Government need to accommodate the tens of thousands of people who will be detained under the new law? I say that she does not, and the Home Secretary will not tell her, either. Has anyone worked it out, or is the Home Secretary just winging it?

The Tory party is in disarray. The highly respected right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), a former Prime Minister rightly respected for her work on modern slavery, attacked this Tory Bill for giving traffickers greater leverage over victims to keep them in slavery. The blue on blue continued, with others concerned about safe and legal routes. We had amendments on both those issues, on tackling terrorism and on any number of things that Government Members could have voted for.

At the end of business yesterday, the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) gave his Minister a tough time over a lack of local consultation on asylum seeker accommodation. That reminds me: just an hour before, Labour had given him the opportunity to vote for—wait for it—an amendment on local consultation on asylum seeker accommodation. Where was he when it came to a vote?

Pick a Bill—any Bill—and the Government’s utter disdain for this House, its Members, and by extension the British people, is clear. Bills chopping and changing as they wrangle their Back Benchers into place—that is no way to run a rodeo. Poor policy, lazy lawmaking and a gutless Government who know that their policies cannot withstand proper scrutiny. One of our scrutiny tools is Opposition days. The Leader of the House cannot just wave her magic wand to cut the cost of living—she has to vote for it. Why, then, did she and the rest of the Tories vote against Labour’s plans on Tuesday to cut the cost of living for her constituents? Thirteen years of Tory Governments crashing and mismanaging the economy. Wages squeezed, inflation at more than 10%, soaring mortgages and rents, food prices rising the fastest in 45 years, and the Government’s answer to their own mess is no rabbits out the hat, just 24 Tory tax rises since 2019 and the highest tax burden in 70 years.

On Tuesday, Labour gave the Tories another chance to abolish the non-dom tax loophole, so that the super-rich who live and work here can pay their fair share of taxes. Labour would choose to spend that on more health staff and breakfast clubs for kids, but the Tories voted against it. We also gave the Tories the chance to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas profits. Labour would choose to spend that on easing the cost of living crisis by freezing council tax this year. But no, the Tories voted against it.



Politics is about choices, and the Government are choosing non-doms and oil and gas giants over working people. Labour will not waste valuable time here on performative Bills that only make people’s lives worse, as the Tories are choosing to do. Labour will cut the cost of living, cut waiting lists and cut crime. That is the difference. That is the choice next Thursday. I wish all Labour candidates in the elections the very best of luck.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I want to start by echoing what the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said earlier with regard to the coronation and thanking all Members who are helping their constituents to prepare for that incredible moment for our country, and everyone working to ensure that the event can go ahead safely, including many members of House staff. I encourage everyone to take part.

The hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) rightly presses me on recess dates. I understand how important that is not just for Members but for staff. I hope to be able to announce those very shortly and will ensure that we do so.

The hon. Lady raised the very important matter of the Illegal Migration Bill. I can only conclude from Labour’s behaviour this week, and from what the hon. Lady has said, that they are happy with the status quo. We are determined to ensure that the finite resource we have is best used to support the most vulnerable and those to whom we have a particular moral obligation. That is the purpose of the Bill. It is difficult stuff that we are doing. That is why we have carefully thought this out. I agree with her that impact assessments are very important. The impact assessment for the Bill will be published today, in advance of its swift progress, hopefully, through the House of Lords.

The hon. Lady has told many jokes at my expense about my former career as a magician’s assistant. It is a little rich, because if there are people in this place who should be accused of illusions and sleight of hand, it is Labour, given its approach to even its own Opposition day debate this week. Her accounts of what happened rival the narratives of Comical Ali for their accuracy and situational awareness. What happened was that Labour, together with the Liberal Democrats and the Green party, passed up the chance to vote for or against a motion this week that would set targets for reducing sewage discharges and financially penalise companies that do not honour their duties. Only the Conservatives voted for that, and only the Conservatives have done something about it—and ditto on the cost of living issue, which she also mentioned.

On sewage, the hon. Lady may know that Labour has pulled all its attack ads on this issue for the local election campaign, because it has been found out. Its campaign has been a deliberate distraction—or perhaps, given the matter under discussion, I should say a stool pigeon—from the reality of ending storm overflows, which is an important matter for our constituents. Labour is being found out. It has been found out on sewage this week. It has been exposed for saying that it will freeze council tax when it more than doubled it in government, and every single one of Labour’s councils covering every single member of the shadow Cabinet have not frozen it; they have hiked it up.

Labour says it wants a compassionate, fair, effective asylum system, but it will not take the tough decisions to deliver one. Labour says it is tough on crime, but it consistently blocks measures to protect the public. The Labour party is supposed to be an alternative Government —that is what it is supposed to look like. This week it has not even looked like an effective protest group.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 20th April 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 24 April will include:

Monday 24 April—Second Reading of the Non-Domestic Rating Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Public Order Bill.

Tuesday 25 April—Opposition day (14th allotted day). Debate in the name of the Leader of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 26 April—Remaining stages of the Illegal Migration Bill.

Thursday 27 April—General debate on progress on reforms to NHS dentistry, followed by a general debate on reducing plastic pollution in the oceans. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 28 April—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 1 May includes:

Monday 1 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 2 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, followed by a general debate on support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 3 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the National Security Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill.

The House will rise for the coronation recess at the conclusion of business on Wednesday 3 May and will return on Tuesday 9 May.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

I do hope everyone had a good recess, but for some it was probably more so than for others. On that note, can I welcome the leader of the SNP’s comments that he, ahem, does “not believe” the SNP is operating criminally—reassuring—when it comes to its “Carry On Campervan” saga? The problem the SNP has is that it does not sound all that convincing, perhaps with good reason.

Seriously, it has emerged that the SNP’s auditors have resigned from doing its Westminster group’s accounts as well as from doing the national party’s. I understand that senior SNP figures failed to inform the authorities here about that. Will the Leader of the House tell us if she knows whether that is correct, because this is serious—it is taxpayers’ money? Can I ask the Leader of the House to intervene to make sure that SNP money that is provided for some of its political staffing here in Parliament has been properly accounted for and used for the purposes for which it is intended? Does she agree with me that, as the police investigation spreads, the First Minister and leader of the SNP should take the basic step of suspending Members of the Scottish Parliament who are the subject of police inquiries? Is it not time that the SNP came clean about who knew what and when? The Scottish people deserve much better than this.

The Government snuck out 17 written ministerial statements on the day Parliament broke up for Easter—Whitehall’s big spring clean! Why, then, did the Leader of the House not dust off the Government’s impact assessment for the Illegal Migration Bill? It has been stuck down the back of Downing Street’s infamous sofa for so long that she cannot be surprised that I am bringing this up. On the 10 separate occasions I have raised it, she has been unable to provide an answer 10 times. Could she have another go today? I was starting to wonder whether it was something personal, but she also could not give an answer to the shadow Deputy Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), at business questions just before the recess. Who knows how many times the shadow Home Office team have asked? There are now just six days until the remaining stages of the Illegal Migration Bill, as announced this morning. What good is publishing an impact assessment after a Bill has been rushed into law? How is that good law making? Surely the Leader of the House does not want to accept that. What are the Government trying to hide? Is it, by any chance, that the Bill is unworkable and they know it? If not, why does she not prove us wrong and publish the impact assessment?

The Leader of the House has just confirmed that the remaining stages of the Bill are scheduled for next Wednesday, instead of Tuesday, presumably to give the Government more time to table last-minute amendments. Is that because the Prime Minister could not even get his own MPs to line up with him? It does look that way. We are here again, with a weak Prime Minister who is forced to cave in to appease a small minority of right-wing Back Benchers. What a mess. Can the right hon. Lady clear it up? The Government must table any amendments such as we read rumours about in the press this morning as a matter of urgency, because MPs need to see them and scrutinise them as soon as possible.

Finally, will the Leader of the House please consider a debate on the time people have to wait for cancer care? Figures released by Labour this morning show that under the Tories, people are waiting up to six months to see a cancer doctor after an urgent referral from a GP. Some are waiting for more than a year to start treatment—a year! Labour has a plan to bring down NHS waiting times and get patients seen and treated faster. The Government have stolen enough of our policies, so could they please, please pinch our policy on this? We would double the number of medical training places, increase nursing and midwifery clinical placements, and recruit more health visitors, and we would pay for that by ending the non-dom tax loophole so that wealthy individuals—[Interruption.] It is not funny. I do not think any of our constituents find cancer waiting times funny. Will the right hon. Lady consider who the Government are siding with? Is it non-doms, or is it nurses and cancer patients?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me start with the hon. Lady’s final point, which is a serious and timely one in a week when the nation is focused on improving bowel cancer diagnosis rates, and we had that wonderful documentary celebrating the work of Bowelbabe and other cancer campaigners. The Health and Social Care Secretary has been doing much more to ensure that we get down the backlog in our NHS, and a large part of that, and one of the main barriers to people being able to come forward for treatment, is a backlog in diagnostics. That is why we have invested so much in setting up new diagnostic centres to crack through that backlog which, as the hon. Lady knows, is due to the pandemic. These are serious matters, and I know all Members of the House are concerned about them. I am sure hon. Members know how to apply for a debate in the usual way.

The hon. Lady raised the matter of the SNP and Short money, and although we all enjoy a joke at the SNP’s expense, these are serious matters. I shall not comment on her suggestion about people being suspended under police investigation—I shall save her blushes as that might have included the Leader of the Opposition, who has been in that camp before. These are not matters for me, but I understand that unless the SNP has audited accounts by 31 May, it will lose its Short money after the April payment. I understand that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority may also have considerations to make. The SNP membership will feel rightly let down by this, which is similar to how the rest of Scotland will feel about the SNP’s poor stewardship of public money. On the upside, I guess it will be easier for them to have a whip-round among the membership, as that number is dwindling to the point where most of them could fit into, well, a luxury camper van.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of an impact assessment. I did say, in my response to the shadow Deputy Leader of the House at the last business questions, that I hope material can be brought forward to assist Members on Report. I understand that that is still the case. I also understand that the majority, if not all, of the amendments will be tabled today.

The hon. Lady is critical of the new amendments. I want a Bill that will work. I ask her to look at them and judge them with an open mind, and urge her party to consider supporting us in obtaining the tools we need to make our systems fit for purpose and protect our borders. As a country, we cannot be soft on these issues. We regret Labour voting 44 times against tougher sentences. We regret Labour blocking the deportation of foreign criminals. We regret that crime levels in Labour-controlled police and crime commissioner areas are on average 34% higher than elsewhere, and that Labour is still against the Bill to stop the small boats.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister exposed the Leader of the Opposition as being Mr Softie, just as his predecessors have done with other Labour leaders. Mrs Thatcher, as you remember Mr Speaker, was an authority on this, having made a study of ice cream so liquid and air-filled it could be poured. Today, the Mr Softie opposite is topped with hundreds and thousands of unfunded spending pledges and one big flake. We know it, Opposition Members know it and the public know it, too.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 23rd March 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 27 March will include:

Monday 27 March—Consideration in Committee of the Illegal Migration Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 28 March—Consideration in Committee of the Illegal Migration Bill (day 2).

Wednesday 29 March—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Thursday 30 March—General debate on the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

The House will rise for Easter recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 30 March and will return on Monday 17 April.

The provisional business for the week commencing 17 April includes:

Monday 17 April—Second Reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

In his first speech on the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister pledged to lead a Government with “accountability at every level”, requiring Ministers to take responsibility for decisions and actions and submit themselves for scrutiny. Does the Leader of the House think that the Prime Minister has kept his promise? I would answer no. We see a constant passing of the buck: “It wasn’t us”; “It was the lawyers’ fault”; “It was the Opposition’s fault”; “It was the civil servants”; “The anti- growth coalition made me crash the economy”; “The blob stopped me stopping the boats”; “The dog ate my homework”. Increasingly ridiculous excuses from the Government. Will the Leader of the House allow MPs to decide whether the Prime Minister has kept his promise, by having a debate on the principle of accountability?

Will the Government take responsibility for the Tory cost of living crisis? Just yesterday, inflation jumped again to 10.4%. Prices have been soaring for months; food has gone up even faster, at 18%. Families are unable to book a holiday or start work on an extension they have been saving up for, and are struggling to pay the bills. Tories blame anyone and anything rather than take responsibility for their 13 years of failure that has led us here.

Will the Tories take responsibility for the small boats crisis? They blame Labour—a party with an actual plan, though not yet in government, to stop channel crossings that are putting lives at risk. But on their watch, last year arrivals reached a new high of 45,000 people, up from just 299 in 2018. Two weeks in a row, the Leader of the House has refused to say when we will see an impact assessment of their latest asylum Bill, to replace the one last year that did not work. Third time lucky: could we have an impact assessment before Committee on Monday? The Minister for Immigration has said that it will be published in “due course”. Where have I heard that before?

It is no good publishing an impact assessment after a Bill has been rushed into law. How is that good lawmaking? How is it a Government allowing scrutiny of their policies? Thankfully, where they failed, the Refugee Council has stepped up and produced an impact assessment. It says that it will cost £9.6 billion just to detain or accommodate people in the first three years of the Bill’s operation. Is that true? Is that what the Government are hiding? Will Ministers take responsibility and publish the impact assessment?

Will Ministers take responsibility for appearing before Select Committees? Why has it been so difficult for the Minister for Women, the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), to agree to appear before the Women and Equalities Committee? According to the Committee’s website—I checked—the Minister refused its request to give evidence on menopause in the workplace. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), a Committee member, pointed out that Ministers must prioritise appearances before Committees. It is not an optional extra as she fancies it, or something to squeeze in if there is time in her diary. Could the Leader of the House please remind the Minister of that?

I am afraid that it got worse. We had another round of the Tory blame game, as the Minister took to Twitter, accusing the Committee of being misleading. Could the Leader of the House ask the Minister to take responsibility and apologise to the hard-working Committee Clerks? Is this mess not indicative of the Government’s disregard for women’s health? The next Labour Government will help businesses to support their employees who are going through the menopause. In our new deal for working people, we will require all large employers to submit menopause action plans annually. That is Labour backing working women. What is the Government’s plan?

The Prime Minister’s promise at the start of his premiership was an empty one. The Government are not interested in taking responsibility, not interested in putting themselves or their policies up for scrutiny and not interested in being accountable. They are at the end of the road. No more excuses. No more passing the buck. It is time for a change to a Labour Government, accountable to Parliament and to the British people, with bold, fully funded policies, standing the test of scrutiny. People want to feel better off. They want to be able to see a doctor when they need to, and they want a Prime Minister they trust to take responsibility. That is what they will get with Labour.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I note that today is the day of reflection marking three years since we first entered lockdown. I know all Members will be reflecting on the experiences of our constituents, as well as those of our own families, during those dark days, and reflecting in particular those who lost their lives and those to whom we owe an immense debt of gratitude for their role in defeating the virus and saving lives.

I wish to associate myself with the many tributes paid to PC Keith Palmer. My thoughts are with his colleagues and his family, and with the families of all those who lost their lives.

I wish to send my good wishes to the dockyard workers hurt in the accident at Leith.

The shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), raises some serious points. First, I turn to the issue she raises about my hon. Friend the Minister for Women. I do not think there is any reason for the Minister for Women to apologise to the House. She has a reputation for cross-party working on issues that she cares passionately about, in particular around women’s health, and she played a major role in work on the menopause, with the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris).

My understanding of what happened is that the Minister for Women could not make the date proposed and had offered other dates to the Committee. The reason she could not make the date was that she had given an undertaking to a Labour Member, the hon. Member for West Ham (Ms Brown), to meet a group of women who were suffering from a particularly painful condition. That meeting was here, but it was scheduled for the same time as the planned Committee hearing. The Minister wanted to go ahead with the meeting, as the women had travelled some distance to come here. Ironically, the hon. Member for West Ham was unable to attend the meeting, for perfectly legitimate reasons. However, the Minister did not take to Twitter to denounce her for that or to encourage others to troll her. The Minister was doing her duty and she has offered other dates to the Committee to attend, just as she has attended the Committee many times before.

It is deeply ironic and shocking that people have been so quick to paint an incorrect picture about our female colleagues in this place, especially in the wake of International Women’s Day, when we all used #AskHerToStand and supported working women. After this session, I will take to Twitter to show the Minister support for the brilliant work that she has done. She does not need to apologise to the House in any way.

The shadow Leader of the House mentions the issue of small boats. I have spoken to the Home Office about the impact assessment; it is quite right that we publish it before Committee stage. I think it will be published very shortly.

The hon. Lady focused the bulk of her remarks on the economy. I thank all Members who took part in the Budget debates. Three of the five priorities the Prime Minister set out in order to be accountable to the public —to increase growth, to reduce debt and to halve inflation —focus on the economy. Overall growth, and construction, manufacturing and services growth, are better than forecast. The Office for Budget Responsibility is revising its forecast on GDP in a positive way.

The UK now ranks third globally as a priority investment destination, which is the highest ranking in the history of our nation. We have the lowest rate of unemployment since 1974. The World Bank says we are the best-placed large European nation to do business in. We became the second country in the world to have foreign direct investment worth $2 trillion. Over the last 13 years, we have become the world’s third trillion-dollar tech economy. We have built the largest life science, TV and film sectors in Europe, and we are the second biggest service exporter in the world. I do not know how all that qualifies us to be the sick man of Europe.

The Labour party is either unaware of those facts or blind to them; the hon. Lady certainly does not want to listen to them. Best not do our country down, though, because these achievements are the achievements of our citizens—their entrepreneurship, their graft, their skill, but also their attitude—and we want to give them ever- increased opportunity. That is why we are modernising our economy. That is why we are removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade—6,000 tariff lines are being removed—and increasing growth, exports and higher wages. That is good for the whole of society.

The statistics that the hon. Lady did not mention were the poverty statistics that have come out today. The figures show that 1.7 million fewer people are in absolute low income after housing costs now than when we took office: that includes 400,000 fewer children, 1 million fewer working-age adults and 200,000 fewer pensioners. Under Labour, benefits were the largest source of income for the poorest working-age households; it is now their earnings. There are now 1 million fewer workless households and an additional 3.8 million people in work.

We stand for personal responsibility and accountability. We want to help people to get on, earn more and keep more of what they earn, and to reward those who help others. Labour, in contrast, stands for dependency, decline and doing our country down.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 16th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 20 March will include:

Monday 20 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Tuesday 21 March—Conclusion of the Budget debate.

Wednesday 22 March—Debate on a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the Stormont brake in the Windsor framework, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Public Order Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords].

Thursday 23 March—General debate on World Down Syndrome Day, followed by general debate on tackling the energy trilemma; the subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 24 March—Private Members’ Bill.

The provisional business for the week commencing 27 March includes:

Monday 27 March—Consideration in Committee of the Illegal Migration Bill (day 1).

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

Yesterday, the Chancellor announced—or should I say re-announced—his Budget proposals because it was not just that policies had been leaked or even briefed to journalists beforehand—this time, the Chancellor had actually tweeted them out himself. Once upon a time, leaking a Budget was a resignation offence. MPs must be given the chance to scrutinise proposals properly on behalf of our constituents in this place first. If I sound like a broken record, Mr Speaker, it is because I keep having to say that. It is a requirement under section 9 of the “Ministerial Code”. Could the Leader remind the Chancellor?

Speaking of swerving scrutiny on major policy, did the Leader approve of her Government sneaking out their announcement on the huge delays to High Speed 2 via a written ministerial statement late last Thursday afternoon—a significant announcement that, again, should have been made in-person to this House first? Tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of economic growth are on the line. What was the Transport Secretary thinking? Hang on, is he thinking anything at all? How would we know? We have not seen much of him lately.

The Department for Transport has reportedly launched a leak inquiry after insiders handed my colleague, the shadow Transport Secretary, documents blowing apart the Government’s case for the delay. However, it is not a leak inquiry that the Government need—it is a search party. The Transport Secretary has not uttered a single word publicly. Unlike his colleague the Chancellor, he has not even been tweeting. Nor has he appeared in this place. Instead, he sends—[Interruption.] Oh, I am told from a sedentary position that he was here yesterday. Why could he not come here on Tuesday, instead of sending his junior? He clearly is around. Where is he? Whether it is the No. 47 bus in Bristol or the trans-Pennine non-express in the north, our transport system is broken. Could the Leader track down the Secretary of State and remind him of his duties?

Will the Leader give us a heads up on what they might try to slip out this afternoon? Who knows—perhaps an announcement of another couple of hundred thousand pounds of taxpayer-funded legal fees for the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)? Is that what they are sneaking out today, or is it something else?

Now, I have said it before, and I will have to say it again. Cabinet Ministers disrespecting this House and our constituents is not good enough. I am not sure that the Leader having quiet words in their ears is working. So perhaps she could get them to write out lines—“I must respect Parliament” 100 times. I am afraid to say that she might need to grab a pen herself, because last week I asked her several very reasonable questions on the scrutiny of the asylum Bill and she did not answer a single one. Perhaps she could have a go at just two. One—has she considered any post-legislative scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which the Government introduced last year to solve the same problems that they say the asylum Bill will solve now, or will we be back here next year when the Bill fails? I look forward to announcing when the House will finally consider Labour’s plans that I outlined last week. Two—where is the Government’s impact assessment? The Leader previously said that Government impact assessments were very handy. They are more than that. They are an essential tool for MPs to scrutinise legislation, so why have the Government not published one for the asylum Bill? What are they hiding? Could it be that that Bill is simply unworkable, and the Government know it?

The asylum Bill is unworkable, just like their Budget. Under the Tories, a £1 billion tax cut for the richest 1%; Labour will reverse it. Under the Tories, we are the weakest economy in the G7; under Labour, we will have the strongest growth. Under the Tories, the biggest hit to living standards since comparable records began—hon. Members should read the Blue Book. Under Labour, higher living standards built on good jobs and productivity grown across every part of our country. Under Labour, a better Britain.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I will pass it on to the Transport Secretary that the hon. Lady is missing him dreadfully. She will understand that he has a pressing in-tray, and some of that pressure could certainly be alleviated if the Labour party condemned the transport strikes. I will just leave that thought with her.

Ministers have always been entitled to legal representation while they are in office. That is the standard procedure that has served Governments of every political hue. There are no plans to change that.

The hon. Lady will know that I have been to see all permanent secretaries with my right hon. and noble Friend Lord True, the Leader of the House of Lords, to ensure that all Departments understand their obligations to this House. We have been met with some encouraging actions since our meetings with them.

The hon. Lady asked me to cover the asylum Bill—the Illegal Migration Bill, as it is known—and I note that the Opposition, rather than choosing to attack the policies in that Bill, are choosing to attack their presentation, which I always take as an encouraging sign. It is right that we have proper scrutiny of that Bill. She will know that many actions that we have taken before have been thwarted by legal workarounds. Legal cases have informed the additional measures that we are taking in the Bill. The hon. Lady offers Labour’s plans to stop illegal migration; I am afraid that its plan is to only assist those people if they are able to come here illegally. We want to use our resources to help those people to whom we have the most moral obligation, and we are in a position to help them.

I am disappointed that the hon. Lady does not welcome the measures in the Budget. The country is going through tough times. She talks about living standards. I remind her that under Labour the lowest paid in this country had half the personal tax thresholds that they do now, and they would have seen their council tax bills rise by 110%.

This Budget is one that addresses the issues of hard-working families and businesses, with £94 billion in cost of living support, a fuel duty freeze for the 13th consecutive year, unprecedented expansion of free childcare, the ending of the poverty premium on prepayment meters, the abolition of Labour’s work capability assessment, levelling-up and new regeneration partnerships, and funds to keep leisure centres and pools going, which many colleagues have asked for at business questions. I am sorry also that the hon. Lady has not welcomed the extra £5 billion for defence and security and the path to increasing our defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, which Labour has made no commitment to equal. Nor has she welcomed the many measures to modernise our economy and to stimulate growth and investment.

Instead, we have had the unedifying spectacle of His Majesty’s Opposition talking down the country. Earlier this week, the shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), likened the United Kingdom to Putin’s Russia. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition said our nation was a “sick man”. Ours is a great nation, and the modernisation of our economy that we are bringing in will set the potential of this country free—our science bases, our financial centres, our creative industries, our manufacturing and new technologies, and our social and third sectors.

It is only after a Labour Government that this nation becomes the sick man of Europe. Every time Labour has left office, the country has been worse off than when it inherited it. No Labour Government have ever left office with lower unemployment than when they came to power. When they were last in power, youth unemployment rose by nearly 45%, and their slash-and-burn spending meant there was no money left. Labour’s unfunded spending commitments would cost every household an additional £3,000, and it continues to block measures to support families and businesses and to stop the boats. We will stand up for the people of this country. We will deliver on their priorities and on their values, and we will champion the UK across the world.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 9th March 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 13 March will include:

Monday 13 March—Second Reading of the Illegal Migration Bill.

Tuesday 14 March—Debate on a motion on homelessness among Ukrainian refugees in the UK, followed by a debate on a motion on seizure of Russian assets. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 15 March—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.

Thursday 16 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Friday 17 March—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 20 March will include:

Monday 20 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Tuesday 21 March—Conclusion of the Budget debate.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

The Leader of the House announced the asylum Bill. A week is supposed to be a long time in politics, but when it comes to Tory promises on small boats, in 86 weeks nothing has changed. Six hundred and two days ago, in the very place where the Leader of the House stood just now, her predecessor but one announced the Second Reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Government’s promises on small boats then are the same as we hear now. We want to stop the dangerous crossings—we want to—but it is clear that nothing that comes from the Government Benches is ever going to work. We have been here before, just like last year and the year before. Has the Leader of the House actually undertaken any post-legislative scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 before they have another go? Do the Government think they achieved their aims on small boats? Let me help her out. The answer is no.

We were told that that Bill would end illegal migration and stop the people smugglers, but crossings have surged. Last year, arrivals reached a new high of 45,000, up from just 299 people in 2018. We were told the Bill would break the business model of the gangs, yet gangs made a record £180 million over the past 12 months from channel crossings, up more than a hundredfold in the last three years. We were told that asylum claims would be sped up, but less than 1% of them last year have been dealt with. And we were told that the Bill would end the use of hotels, but the number of asylum seekers housed in hotels and contingency accommodation has soared to a record level of over 37,000 people, costing over £5 million a day. The list of broken promises goes on and on.

There is no sign of change. The Home Secretary blames anyone but herself and her predecessors for Tory failure on small boats, but it is clearly on them. They have been here for 13 years. I notice that she is continuing to attack her own civil servants, who, according to her, are part of a so-called “activist blob”. Let me tell those civil servants: we know you have been working hard to deliver the Government’s policies and the next Labour Government will treat you with respect. She is also blaming Labour for blocking Tory policies. How? They have a majority, last time I looked! Is the Prime Minister so weak that he cannot keep his Back Benchers in line? Are we too good at convincing them of the Government’s failure? And it is not just on the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Guardian has recorded 43 announcements the Tories have made that then failed to tackle the channel crossings, from jet ski patrols to social media bans. Recycled rubbish. Rinse and repeat. If the Government had it their way, would they try again in another 602 days?

The Government treat legislation and precious time in this House as nothing more than a feeding frenzy, with Bill after Bill chucking red meat for a noisy minority of Back Benchers. Is that an attempt to whip up support for weak and failing leadership? Is that the best that the Leader of the House’s party has to offer the country? This time, will she at least give us the tools to scrutinise the Bill? Why have the Government, again, failed to publish an impact assessment with figures showing where the money will come from? Is it because it is uncosted? When will they publish an impact assessment? Will it be before Second Reading on Monday, or after? What do the Government have to hide? What about the practicalities?

My caseworkers tell me that the Home Office are having IT problems right now. How will they cope with processing all the other people affected by the Bill? Where will they put them? Under the Bill, will a woman who has been trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation, or an Afghan interpreter who worked with our brave forces, be told, “Your case won’t even be heard.”

The Government’s plan is unworkable and it is time for change. I look forward to swapping places with the right hon. Lady and announcing the day that this House will consider Labour’s credible plan for stopping small boats. [Interruption.] Are they listening? Labour’s plan to crack down on criminal gangs through a new cross-border police unit. Labour’s plan to clear the backlog and end hotel use through fast-tracking asylum decisions. Labour’s plan for agreements with France and other countries on returns and family reunions. Labour’s plan to reform resettlement schemes. Labour’s plan to tackle humanitarian crises at source. Labour has a plan. Is it not time that the British people had the chance to vote for it?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me thank all Members who took part in events to celebrate International Women’s Day, and put on record that our thoughts are with all those women around the world who are standing up for human rights and democracy, particularly schoolgirls in Iran, who are facing the most brutal oppression. I thank everyone for the announcements on International Women’s Day. The Government have made many, and the Opposition too. I was buoyed by the shadow Chancellor’s pledge that Labour will end the “blokey culture” that lets men dominate the top positions—said with a distinct lack of self-awareness, I might add. I can no longer boast that we have had three female Prime Ministers on this side of the House because, happily, female leadership is becoming the norm in all political parties, bar one. For the sake of the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), I hope that changes soon.

Let me turn to the hon. Lady’s point about small boats. On civil servants, she will know that the Home Secretary has distanced herself from that language—she did not say that. We put on record our thanks to all civil servants for the work that they do. Before the debate descends to unfortunate depths, I want to remind the House that in the last two decades 300 people have lost their lives crossing the channel. They have been hit by cars, crushed by lorries, suffocated inside containers, electrocuted and hit by Eurostar trains, and drowned at sea. Many more died en route to the channel. I remind the House that in one night, more people died crossing the Mediterranean than were lost on the Titanic.

Deterring and preventing such horrors is the right thing to do. A good outcome requires some pragmatism and a reality check from everyone in this House. We want to honour our moral obligations to particular people. We want to help those who would otherwise not survive in refugee camps, as we did during the Syria conflict. We want a system that works well and is not overwhelmed. That is pragmatic, moral and compassionate. That is where the country is at and where their Government are at. It is where the Labour party claims to be, but its actions tell a different story. Labour says that it wants to stop the boats, but it is not prepared to help us do it. It is both for and against free movement, strikes, appearing on picket lines and nationalisation.

I say to the confused British public, “Look at what Labour Members do, not what they say. Are they discouraging strikes? Did they vote for minimum service levels to protect your interests? Did they support our measures to protect border security? Did they support tougher sentences for heinous crimes or the deportation of foreign criminals? Will they help us to stop the boats? If they answer no, how can they be on your side?”

Labour is borrowing from the Gary Lineker playbook. It is a party of goal-hangers and the occasional left-wing striker, hanging around the goalmouth, poised to seize any opportunities and take an easy shot—but that only works if the ball is in the right half. This country does not need goal-hangers; it needs centre-forwards. It needs people who put in the hard work, who take tough decisions, who grip a problem and work out how to solve it, and who create those opportunities. That is what we are doing. It needs a team captain who knows his own mind, has a plan and knows what colour his football shirt is. Labour might be up at half-time, but the second half is yet to be played.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 2nd March 2023

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 6 March will include the following:

Monday 6 March—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Social Security (Additional Payments) (No.2) Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill.

Tuesday 7 March—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Public Order Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Alternative Fuel Payment Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2023, followed by a motion to approve the Non-Domestic Alternative Fuel Payment Pass-through Requirement and Amendment Regulations 2023.

Wednesday 8 March—Estimates day. There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, in so far as it relates to adult social care; and the Department for Education, in so far as it relates to childcare and early years. At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 9 March—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, followed by a general debate on International Women’s Day, followed by a general debate on brain tumour research funding. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 10 March—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 13 March includes the following:

Monday 13 March—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

I also remind colleagues that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement on Wednesday 15 March.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister announced proposals for a public advocate to act on behalf of the victims and the bereaved after public disasters like Hillsborough, the Manchester Arena bombing and Grenfell, but I am afraid that, unlike the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), the public advocate will have no independence, there will be no data controller and they will not act only at the behest of families—they will effectively be directed by the Secretary of State. Anyone who has been following the infected blood scandal, for example, knows that a public advocate has to be truly independent. It should have been clear to the Deputy Prime Minister from the response to his statement that MPs on both sides of the House want him to go much further. Even Members on his own side raised significant concerns.

If the Deputy Prime Minister will not listen to the Labour Member for Garston and Halewood, who has worked tirelessly, will he listen to his own Back Benchers, including a former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), and beef up his proposals? Will the Leader of the House please make it clear to the Deputy Prime Minister that this House wants justice for victims and the bereaved?

Labour’s successful motion on Tuesday called on the Government to end the 200-year-old non-domiciled tax status, which costs taxpayers £3.2 billion a year. The next Labour Government will end that tax dodge and invest part of the money in one of the biggest NHS workforce expansions in history, as part of Labour’s plan to grasp the root cause of the crisis in the NHS. The Leader of the House, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Tory party did not even bother to turn up to vote. They sided with wealthy tax avoiders over NHS patients and staff. I wonder why.

I asked the Leader of the House to explain to her constituents why she did not support a similar Labour motion last year. Unsurprisingly, she did not answer at business questions then, so perhaps she will have a go now. Why, in January alone, did more than 5,500 of her constituents and 7,000 of mine have to wait more than two weeks to see a general practitioner? If she will not admit the sorry state to which the Tories have brought the NHS, may I suggest that she at least goes back to the Cabinet to demand that the Government respect the will of this House and implement Labour’s plan to invest in the NHS workforce?

After that, we set out our plan to get Britain back to work. Recent employment support schemes have underperformed and underspent. As a result, the number of economically inactive people is higher than before the pandemic. What will the Government do about it? Labour is calling for the reform of disability benefit assessments, targeted help for people over 50 and those who have long-term ill health, and the devolution of employment support to local areas. Who could disagree with that? Well, not some Tory Back Benchers. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley), the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, has said as much:

“Fixing economic inactivity needs a radical pro-devolution mindset.”

That is all part of Labour’s plan to grow the economy and to boost public finances and household incomes. Does the Leader of the House also agree with Labour? If not, where is the Government’s plan?

The right hon. Lady knows the importance I place on our role as scrutinisers. That includes timely and good-quality answers to written parliamentary questions. Why, to take one example, cannot my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, get answers on whether the Government’s existing policies are even making a difference? He has asked, among many other questions: how many people secure a job after taking part in the sector-based work academy programme? How much funding is allocated to each jobcentre? How many universal credit claimants are undertaking training or education that counts towards their work-related requirements? The list of unanswered questions goes on.

Perhaps the Leader of the House could give this a go, because responses such as “This information is not available,” “The information is not collated,” and, “No such specific assessment has been made,” are very familiar to Members on both sides of the House, but they are not good enough. Will she remind Ministers that they need to answer the questions they are asked? If Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions are not confident about their policies, perhaps they ought to clear their desks and make way for Labour’s brilliant Work and Pensions team, which has a bold plan to get Britain back to work.

I end with another simple request. After the ministerial merry-go-round of the last few years, I might have thought the Minister for the Cabinet Office would be a dab hand at updating the list of ministerial responsibilities. It is essential that MPs, staff and our constituents have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and how best to contact them. Following the latest reshuffle and Whitehall restructuring, I asked the Cabinet Office for an update, and I was told that one will be published in due course. That was more than 10 days ago. Will the Leader of the House give the Minister for the Cabinet Office a nudge? “In due course.” “Soon.” “Before too long.” That sort of language sums up the Tories’ answers to everything. “Just wait a little longer and it will all be okay,” is what they seem to think. We have had 13 years of this stuff. The British people should not have to wait longer. It is time for a fresh start and a Labour Government.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me take this opportunity to place on the record, as I have been unable to do so this week, the fact that my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the appalling train accident in Greece. I know that all Members would want to join me in that. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

I will run through the questions that the hon. Lady has asked me. With regard to the Deputy Prime Minister, there was a statement, in which he would have heard what Members have said and listened to their concerns. However, I will be happy to write to him and make sure that he knows that she has raised the matter this week.

As for the rhetoric we have had from Labour on national missions, I just say to the hon. Lady that a national mission for this country should be the strength of our NHS. If she really wants to get all minds working on that, across all sectors—public, private, philanthropic and charitable—just repeating the rhetoric that large swathes of the population do not care about the NHS is not helpful. We care very much about the NHS. Our record on investment speaks for itself, and she will know that a huge amount of work is ongoing to deal with the very real problem of backlogs because of the pandemic.

The hon. Lady could have spoken about the 92 community diagnostic centres that are open, with diagnostics being one of the main reasons why we still have those waiting list backlogs. She will know that we have massively increased access to GP appointments, with their number per day having increased by 120,000 since this time last year. That is due to the hard work of healthcare professionals, the modernisation that has been adopted, and the hard work of the Secretary of State and his team. She could acknowledge that and move the debate on from some rather outdated rhetoric. I will encourage Labour to do that at every business questions, in all other areas as well.

The hon. Lady invites comparison between the work of the Department for Work and Pensions now and the record of that Department under the last Labour Government, and indeed of the whole Government. I just remind her that we have got 4 million additional people into the workplace, with 2 million being women and 1 million being disabled people who would not otherwise have had those opportunities to work.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s gentle encouragement about the performance of Whitehall Departments. She knows that I take this matter very seriously. I have had permanent secretaries come to see me in my office, particularly, in recent times, the permanent secretary at the Home Office. She will know that we have achieved on the backlog on those questions and the casework that is so important to us in this place—70,000 more pieces of correspondence have been dealt with since this matter was raised in this House. Both Lord True, the Leader of the House of Lords, and I will be seeing all permanent secretaries next week, and we have a list of suggestions on how things can be improved. I will always want Members of this House to have timely access to information, and I shall continue to operate on that basis.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 23rd February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 27 February will include:

Monday 27 February—Second Reading of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill.

Tuesday 28 February—Opposition day (13th allotted day). Debate in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to the announced.

Wednesday 1 March—Motion to approve an instruction relating to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords], followed by remaining stages of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords].

Thursday 2 March—General debate on changes of name by registered sex offenders, followed by general debate on Welsh affairs. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 3 March—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 6 March includes:

Monday 6 March—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Social Security (Additional Payments) (No.2) Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill.

Tuesday 7 March—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Public Order Bill.

Wednesday 8 March—Estimates day. At 7pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 9 March—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation And Adjustments) Bill, followed by business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 10 March—The House will not be sitting.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

Tomorrow, we mark one year since Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine. We reflect together on the immense suffering the Ukrainian people have endured, but also on their remarkable courage and resilience. President Zelensky, on his recent inspiring visit to Parliament, made it clearer than ever that Putin must be defeated in Ukraine, and we stand united as a country with him and with all Ukrainians.

Scrutinising legislation is what makes us MPs, and a confident, credible Government would accept that principle and provide MPs with the means to do so. Why, then, did the Government only publish an impact assessment for their sacking nurses Bill weeks after the Bill had been introduced and then forced through all its Commons stages? As well as being published late, its quality is poor; an independent watchdog has branded it “not fit for purpose” and the Government are clearly trying to hide the severe and disproportionate impacts that the law will have on small businesses. Is this why the Government chose to rattle that shoddy, unworkable Bill through Parliament? They are putting an intolerable burden on employers, unions and workers, and what for? To sweeten some of their own Back Benchers. Has the Business Secretary at least read the impact assessment and the subsequent report, and will she publish proper assessments for any future regulations that the Government plan to introduce as a result of the Bill? Could the Leader of the House please ensure that any other assessments for further legislation are published on time, before the Bill? This simply is not good enough.

We have yet another Tory Prime Minister forcing the people of this country and the businesses and people of Northern Ireland to wait while he plucks up the courage to stand up to his own party. Let me tell the Leader of the House what ought already to be clear: this country is sick of waiting for weak Tory leaders to get on and govern. It seems that a deal has been done, but the Prime Minister is too scared to sign it off with his own Back Benchers. So let me repeat Labour’s offer on the Northern Ireland protocol revisions: if the deal stands the test of being in the national interest and in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, we will put the country first and provide the support necessary to get it through Parliament. Will the Government put country before party and accept our offer?

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that

“Parliament will express its view”—[Official Report, 22 February 2023; Vol. 728, c. 219.]

but his spokesperson then said that they would “not get into hypotheticals”. Could the Leader of the House clear up the confusion? Will this House get to vote: yes or no?

The Government must start using the time allocated for passing legislation properly. Week in, week out, I ask the Leader of the House whether she will reach down the back of the Government’s bulging sofa and find the legislation that they keep managing to lose. They complain about a lack of time, but they spend it on what amounts to nothing more than red meat for a noisy minority of their Back Benchers.

Take the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, for example. That Bill means ripping up international agreements and breaking international law. That is not the way forward for a modern, outward-looking country, and it is never going to work; it will lead only to uncertainty and unnecessary confrontation with our EU friends and neighbours. Will the Government do what we have called for by scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill?

Whether they are in my Bristol West constituency, in Swindon, or elsewhere up and down the country, voters know that the Government have broken our country and have no plan to fix it. Labour does have a plan. Today, the Leader of the Opposition has set out Labour’s vision for a decade of national renewal: strong economic growth, clean energy, improving the NHS, reforming the justice system and raising education standards. That is the choice that voters have: five more years of Tory failure—on top of the last 13—or a fresh start with a Labour Government.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I join the hon. Lady in her comments about Ukraine. Tomorrow, we will mark one year since Russia’s illegal war began and, on Monday, we marked nine years since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. In the minute’s silence tomorrow, I know that we will all think about those who have been lost, the huge suffering and hardship that people are enduring, and, most of all, the courage and heroism of the Ukrainian people. I join her in thanking every Briton who is standing with them, who has taken them into their homes, and who is enduring hardship for their sake and for freedom’s sake. I thank in particular all Members of this House; we are all united in our support for Ukraine and that resolve will be unwavering.

The hon. Lady asks about impact assessments. I have been quite vocal about the importance of impact assessments not just to enable scrutiny but to make Ministers give good decisions. She again invites comparisons between the records of our parties. I note that Labour’s 11th relaunch in two years is going on as I speak. I could talk about the fact that the UK has had the strongest growth of any G7 country over the last two years; that we have halved crime with the same number of officers that Labour had; that we have got 4 million more people into work; that we have 10% more “good” or “outstanding” schools; that the Labour-run NHS Wales is outperformed fivefold by NHS England; or that we have had a fourfold increase in renewables since 2011, but that would be churlish of me.

The hon. Lady talks about the very serious situation with the negotiations, and of course, the people of Northern Ireland are at the forefront of our minds in that. I gently suggest to her that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is quite helpful in focusing minds to get the right result. If she really does want a deal, she should not just say she will support the Prime Minister but demonstrate support for him and for the objective that all Members of this House share, which is to alleviate the friction and to address the democratic deficit for the people of Northern Ireland. She and her party should try to stand up for the United Kingdom, as opposed to helping those on the other side of the negotiating table.

I welcome the hon. Lady saying that she will support a deal brought forward by the Prime Minister. As I have previously noted, Labour are very keen to be seen to support all sorts of Conservative policies. They are in favour of fiscal conservatism, “take back control” conservatism and small state, big society and local conservatism. But nobody is fooled by this reinvented Labour party, because what we are seeing is cosplay conservatism. They do not endorse strikes, but they will not condemn them either. They say they support striking workers, but they will not be photographed with them. They centralise and regionalise while talking about localism. They say they are not big spenders while racking up billions in unfunded plans. They say they will stand up for women while undermining and not supporting their own MPs.

The Leader of the Opposition used to promote the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), and now he has cancelled him, along with every single one of the 10 leadership pledges he made when he succeeded him. The Leader of the Opposition is socialism’s sensitivity reader. He is editing out the twits and the Trots, but the British people will not be fooled—they will see through it—because it is not enough to say that socialism does not work; you have to believe it too.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 9th February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Before I do so, may I put on record my thanks to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Leader of the House of Lords for facilitating the visit of President Zelensky yesterday, and my thanks to all Members for giving him such a warm welcome? May I also join the many people who have expressed sorrow at the terrible events unfolding in Turkey and Syria, and urge everyone to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal today?

The business for the week beginning 20 February will include:

Monday 20 February—A general debate on Ukraine.

Tuesday 21 February—Second Reading of the Social Security (Additional Payments) (No.2) Bill.

Wednesday 22 February—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.

Thursday 23 February—A general debate on the future of the NHS, its funding and staffing. The subject of this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 24 February—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week beginning on 27 February includes:



Monday 27 February—Second Reading of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business.

This week the news has been dominated by tragic scenes from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. It is impossible to put into words the scale of human suffering, with people left out in the cold without food, shelter or medical supplies, and digging through the rubble with their bare hands to search for survivors. Earlier this week the Foreign Secretary seemed to be unable to answer questions about the reported cuts of between £6 million and £8 million in aid to Syria. Can the Leader of the House tell us now whether the Government plan to press ahead with them, and will she encourage the Foreign Secretary to return to the House and announce a longer-term plan for tackling this crisis?

I welcome the Leader of the House’s announcement of the debate scheduled for Monday week marking almost a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As she has said, it was an honour to be in Westminster Hall yesterday for President Zelensky’s historic address to both Houses of Parliament, and I, too, want to put on record my thanks to all the staff who were involved. President Zelensky said that our two nations were together on a mission to defeat evil and secure peace. That reminds us all that we have a duty to stand by Ukraine, and we must. Perhaps a debate on the seizure of frozen sanctioned assets would therefore be timely. Labour supports plans to repurpose frozen Russian assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine after the war, and to provide much-needed humanitarian aid to the country. The EU has already set out a plan to do so, and Canada has passed laws for this purpose. Why, then, are the Government lagging behind? May we have a debate on the steps that are still needed to ensure that Britain can never be a soft touch for corrupt oligarchs and warlords wishing to hide their ill-gotten wealth?

The Government’s announcement of a holocaust memorial Bill is welcome. It will allow the building of a new memorial and learning centre, which will go such a long way in educating future generations about the holocaust. I offer the Government Labour’s co-operation in getting the Bill through as quickly as possible, because there must be no delay.

Last week I raised the Public Advocate (No. 2) Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle). It would be the first part of a Hillsborough law and would introduce an independent advocate to represent bereaved families and survivors of public disasters. The Leader of the House said then that the issue was “a huge concern” to many in this House and to many outside it, and she was right. Why, then, 24 hours later, did her own Tory MPs block it for the 12th time? My hon. Friend will not give up. She and the Hillsborough families will have Labour’s full support when she brings the Bill back in March; will they have the Government’s?

Finally, the Leader of the House should not be surprised to hear me raise the long-delayed football governance White Paper again. The Government committed to an independent regulator of English football in the last Queen’s Speech. We have had promises from numerous Culture Secretaries that it would be published—ahem—“soon”. Wednesday’s reshuffle seems to have delayed it yet again. This simply is not good enough. Labour has supported the introduction of an independent regulator for years. Clubs, players, staff and fans are fed up waiting for the Government to get on, do their job and actually govern. Will the Leader of the House tell us when the White Paper will be published?

Is it not the case that the Tories’ tactics are not working? They lack skill, they are tired and they simply cannot keep up with the reds any more. They have tried changing the squad around but the never-ending transfer window just is not helping. There is certainly no suitable Tory substitute for the captain, as we have seen all season: changing the Tory at the top does not work. This week, they have even tried changing the formation, but it will make no difference: they have no game plan for Britain.

But there is still everything to play for. The Tories might be relegating themselves into opposition, but they will not relegate Britain. The next Labour Government —a team with a brilliant captain—will restore Britain’s hope and optimism and help people through and beyond the cost of living crisis, repair our public services and support communities that have suffered from the sticking-plaster politics that has defined the past 13 years of Tory government. I say to the people of West Lancashire today, and the rest of the country whenever a general election may come: Labour’s coming home.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks about Turkey, Syria and Ukraine. She will know that we have contingencies in our aid budget. On our ODA score, it is not scored by us—it is an international definition. Although we have given some immediate support, that will be under review and we will of course look to see what more we can do. The Prime Minister has made direct contact with those involved in organising that.

On Ukraine, I have announced a general debate on Ukraine, at which I am sure that many issues, including those raised by the hon. Lady, can be raised. I welcome her remarks about the holocaust memorial and am glad to have her support for that. I will ask the relevant Department again about Hillsborough, which I know is extremely important to many, and I am also glad to have her support for the football governance review—

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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It is coming soon. Members, who I know care about it greatly, will not have long to wait.

I am very sorry that the hon. Lady does not welcome the machinery of government changes. She draws a comparison between both parties with regard to modernisation and being what this country needs. I believe that those changes were right—any organisation that wants to be its best has to modernise—and I thought they might be something that Labour Members would be trying to understand, given that their team captain, the Leader of the Opposition, has been channelling the modernising zeal of Neil Kinnock. The thing is, he is no Neil Kinnock, because Neil Kinnock knew what the problem was: a few well-paid union leaders and their destructive ideology—outdated, rigid political dogma that is irrelevant to today’s hard-working people.

Labour has been peddling the line to those hard-working people that what they care about and everything that is precious to them will be helped by going out on strike. The hon. Lady talks about the cost of living. What possible merits could come from trying to suggest that, by making ends meet, we drive those ends further and further apart? It is political cynicism of the worst order to encourage strikes, even if people do so by wringing their hands and avoiding being photographed on the picket line.

Those striking workers will lose pay from their pay packets. Even if their demands are met with an inflationary pay rise, they lose: inflation becomes embedded; every single taxpayer—every single household—pays an extra £1,000 in tax; learning for their children is lost; hospital appointments for their loved ones are lost; and investment into the UK is discouraged, affecting the very economy on which our NHS depends.

On every possible outcome, strike action hurts people and it hurts public services. The only beneficiary is the red team, the Labour party, but that is the point, is it not? Labour wants power at any price and it is happy that union members are collateral damage in that. It is the same old Labour that took the miners out on strike at the start of the warmest summer on record. It is the same old Labour that asks people to face huge hardships for no gain, and asks them to pay for that privilege through political donations via their union subs. Kinnock knew that this ends with the grotesque chaos of a Labour union handing out hardship payments to its own members with their own money. Britain’s workforce deserve better. I say to the hon. Lady: do not lecture us about modernisation and being fit for purpose to lead this country. Her party’s vision for the future looks very much like its past.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 6 February will include:

Monday 6 February—Debate on motions to approve the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2023, the draft Benefit Cap (Annual Limit) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 and the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2023, followed by a debate on a motion to approve the charter for budget responsibility: autumn 2022 update.

Tuesday 7 February—Remaining stages of the Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.

Wednesday 8 February—Motions relating to the police grant and local government finance reports.

Thursday 9 February—A debate on the independent review of net zero, followed by a general debate on parliamentary services for Members. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 9 February and will return on Monday 20 February.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

This week, the International Monetary Fund announced that the UK is the only advanced economy forecast to shrink this year. Even sanctions-hit Russia is performing better than us. Why, then, was the Chancellor not in his place on Tuesday to answer Labour’s urgent question? He needs to address the concerns raised by MPs on behalf of people who do not know how they are going to pay for a holiday this year, or how they will ever get round to servicing the boiler or making the home improvements they have been putting off. Some are simply worried about how they will pay the bills.

Britain has huge potential and people with great talent but, under the Tories, we are all being held back. Labour will get the economy growing with our green prosperity plan and our active partnership with businesses, which I know from our packed-out international trade reception earlier this week are turning to Labour in their droves. Has the Leader of the House considered a debate on boosting export-led growth? Under Labour we would have a growing economy and better public services.

Labour’s motion on Tuesday called for the abolition of the unfair tax break that the super-rich use to avoid paying their fair share: non-dom tax status. The next Labour Government would instead use the money to train a new generation of NHS and social care workers, and to provide breakfast clubs for every primary-aged child in England. I understand there are around 100 non- doms in the constituency of the Leader of the House, so why is she choosing to give her super-rich constituents an unfair tax break over providing for Portsmouth’s children and reducing her local NHS waiting lists?

Speaking of the economy, the Business Secretary has, according to media reports, taken great offence at my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones)—I cannot understand why—for putting perfectly legitimate questions to him on the economy at a session of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last month. Think about that: questions on the economy to the Business Secretary. That is hardly a curveball. Apparently, the scrutiny annoyed him so much that he is not co-operating with the Committee on national security. We need parliamentary scrutiny by the Committee on the blocking of foreign takeovers of British companies on national security grounds, which can happen only once the Government have published a memorandum of understanding, for which the Committee has been waiting for more than a year.

I cannot believe I have to say this, but national security is not a game. This playground politics should be beneath senior members of the Government. Does the Leader of the House agree that Cabinet Ministers who will not do their job properly because robust questioning has hurt their feelings are simply not up to it? Will she urge the Business Secretary to act in the national interest, and for national security, by co-operating with my hon. Friend and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee so that we can have proper parliamentary scrutiny of this important process?

Finally, it has been five years since the damning report on the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people lost their lives. In all that time, the Government have not provided a response and Ministers have not committed to changing the law to protect future victims of public disasters. Families have spent decades fighting for the truth, yet they are still waiting for justice, despite the tireless campaigning of the bereaved, my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) and so many others. Labour has long called for the introduction of a Hillsborough law to give real protection to victims of future public disasters and their families. We need urgent action, not further painful delay.

Just this Tuesday, the Home Secretary could not even provide a timetable for a response. A Home Office Minister later said that we can expect it in the spring. Could the Leader of the House please be more specific? The Public Advocate (No. 2) Bill, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood, is due back in the House tomorrow. As a lasting legacy for the Hillsborough families, will the Leader of the House support it?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I start by echoing the many sympathies and sentiments that hon. Members have expressed at the sad death of firefighter Barry Martin. I am sure all Members in the Chamber today will want to echo those sentiments.

On a more cheerful note, I wish all the home nations good luck in the Six Nations, which kicks off this weekend.

The Hillsborough inquiry and its findings were well done, and what we have done was the right thing to do. I know this is a huge concern to many Members, and I will never forget our debates and the incredible emotional stories that many Members told about that tragic day. I understand that ongoing police inquiries are the reason for the delay. Certainly, given what the hon. Lady has said—I am sure that this is also what other Members would want me to do—I shall write to the Home Office and ask it to contact her and other Members who have expressed an interest to update them on progress.

I thank hon. Members for supporting the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill this week. I am delighted to say that we have introduced the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill this week, and I hope that all Members will support it. I also welcome the announcements on the environmental improvement plan, as well as the health and social care improvement plan and today’s important announcement on children’s social care.

The hon. Lady asks me about growth. I would be happy to compare the Labour party’s record, and the state in which it leaves the UK when it leaves office, with what we have done on business growth. She will know that in previous years, we have had one of the fastest growth rates, in part because we came out of lockdown earlier than others. That is largely what she is seeing.

The hon. Lady talks about the cost of living. One of the things that the Prime Minister has delivered on is £26 billion-worth of cost of living support. Exports are growing, and if she wants that to speed up and continue, perhaps she will support the legislation we are introducing to modernise our economy—the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill—and be a bit more encouraging and positive about the from-scratch trade deals and memorandums of understanding that the Department for International Trade is doing. I expect the Opposition to welcome our accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, which will open up a £9 trillion market to our constituents.

The hon. Lady should look into Labour’s record. She will not know my own constituency as well as I do, but when it comes to getting people into employment, doubling their personal tax allowance thresholds, the new schools that we have built, the vast improvements to the local hospital—it had one of the worst MRSA records in the country—or the maladministration of pension credit and tax credit, every index, including the recent Bloomberg index on levelling up, says that my constituency is doing very well. That is, in very large part, down to the hard work of my fantastic constituents.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of national security. I would like to make a comparison between our records on defence and national security, and perhaps compare our current national security architecture with Labour’s, but Labour had no such architecture. The National Security Council was set up under a Conservative Government.

I am responding to business questions on the Prime Minister’s 100th day in office. During that time, as well as providing the cost of living package that I mentioned earlier, he has stabilised the economy and invested billions in schools, the NHS and social care. We have also passed much legislation—[Interruption.] As the hon. Lady is calling out, I will be generous. Although I am sorry that we do not have the Opposition’s support on minimum service standards, modernising our regulatory framework or reducing stamp duty, I thank them for what they have supported; there is quite a lot of it.

Of the Financial Services and Markets Bill, the Labour spokesperson, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), said:

“The Opposition support this important piece of legislation”.—[Official Report, 7 December 2022; Vol. 724, c. 468.]

The shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill:

“The Bill, which the Labour party strongly supports, has got much better”.—[Official Report, 7 November 2022; Vol. 722, c. 55.]

Of the National Security Bill, the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) said:

“I rise to confirm that the Labour party supports the Third Reading of this Bill.”—[Official Report, 16 November 2022; Vol. 722, c. 792.]

Ditto on the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, the Online Safety Bill, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, the Seafarers’ Wages Bill and the Procurement Bill. If we are doing such a bad job, why does Labour end up supporting our Bills? I do not know.

On the Leader of the Opposition’s 100th day, one of his own MPs remarked that he did not have a clue what the Leader of the Opposition stood for. I suggest to the hon. Lady opposite that 1,034 days since her leader took the helm, that charge still stands.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 30 January—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Tuesday 31 January—Opposition day (12th allotted day): debate in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced

Wednesday 1 February—Remaining stages of the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords].

Thursday 2 February—General debate on LGBT history month, followed by a general debate on devolution in Wales 25 years on. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 3 February—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 6 February includes:

Monday 6 February—Debate on motions to approve the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2023, the draft Benefit Cap (Annual Limit) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 and the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2023, followed by a debate on a motion to approve the charter for budget responsibility: autumn 2022 update.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for setting out the business. Ministers answering questions from MPs on behalf of our constituents should be a given—it is the most basic form of scrutiny in a parliamentary democracy—but, as we all know, this Government struggle with even the basics. Swerving scrutiny is now the norm. Last week the right hon. Lady said, as a justification for setting off on a pre-prepared political rant, that I had invited her to compare the Government’s record in power against Labour’s. I did not, actually, and she should not need to be reminded that that is not what these exchanges are about. I am happy to take her for a cup of tea and talk about Labour’s record achievements: cutting NHS waiting times and crime; on educational attainment; the minimum wage; laws on equality and human rights; and the world’s first climate change Act—the list goes on and on.

What I would like here, on behalf of the people we represent, is direct answers to important questions on the Government’s failing legislative agenda and their utter disdain for Parliament. Admittedly, if the Prime Minister carries on as he is, the right hon. Lady might be able to dust off her “PM for PM” Tory leadership merch sooner rather than later—I’d like a mug—but until then Parliament requires her to represent the interests of this House, and therefore the British people, in Government.

Seeing as the right hon. Lady did not answer last week, let us have another go. First, on the Tories’ sacking of nurses Bill, they should have published an impact assessment before it even reached the House, yet the final stages are due in the Commons on Monday and we still have not got one. That is despite her saying last week, publicly, that she thought impact assessments were very handy. Well, they are, but they are more than that; they are a crucial tool for parliamentary oversight, especially when a Bill is being rattled through like this one. What are the Government hiding? When will we see their report on what the Bill’s impact will be?

The Leader of the House’s reassurance that the burning through of regulations under the retained EU law Bill will have good scrutiny simply does not wash with the people of Bristol West, or anywhere else. The right hon. Lady is Parliament’s representative in Government, so why is she not backing MPs being given a proper say on behalf of our constituents over workers’ rights to holiday or maternity pay, or over environmental protections? It is literally her job.

The Leader of the House could start by giving us the means to scrutinise properly. Last Thursday, I got no answer on the Government’s half-baked dashboard for EU regulations, so perhaps I could get one this week. Do they have a plan to complete the dashboard? If so, by when? Do they have a plan to square the practical difficulties of getting through thousands of regulations before the end of the year? If so, what is it?

In questions to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers, my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) was told that the return of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was

“a matter for business managers.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2023; Vol. 725, c. 695.]

The problem is that when I have asked the Leader of the House about this before, I have got—you guessed it—no answer. Like everything else that they have lost down the back of the sofa, apparently it is Tory infighting holding the Bill up. I gather that Tory Back Benchers have had to be reassured that it will not be used as a device to crack down on hunting. They want to protect hunting? What a mess! Can the Leader of the House clear this up? When will the Bill be brought back to the House for its remaining stages?

While the Leader of the House is down the back of that infamous sofa, could she try to pull out the football governance White Paper? The Government committed in the last Queen’s Speech to publishing proposals to establish an independent regulator of English football. Could she give my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) a birthday present and find them, please? Since that commitment, we have had flip-flopping, rides on the ministerial merry-go-round, and a promise from the Culture Secretary that the White Paper would be published “imminently”. Labour has supported the introduction of an independent regulator for years. It is urgent for clubs, players, staff and fans. The Government have let them all down. Where is it?

Let me end by noting the fast-approaching 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. The Labour party is immensely proud of its part in the peace process, as are many others across the House, of all political dimensions. Will the Leader of the House please allow a debate in Government time so that Members can reflect on what was achieved, and to allow representatives from Northern Ireland to share their views? Does she agree that this moment should not be left to the Backbench Business Committee and we really should have a Government debate?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am sure the whole House will want to recognise that we have Holocaust Memorial Day this week. Let me place on the record my thanks, in particular, to all the survivors who help us and new generations to understand what happened and, of course, to redouble our efforts to tackle antisemitism wherever it appears. I also thank the Holocaust Educational Trust. I know that many Members will have relied on it to take them to Auschwitz and elsewhere, and that will have had a huge impact on all Members of this House.

May I also place on the record my thanks to the ship’s company of HMS Queen Elizabeth, who visited Parliament this week, for all they have done for the Atlantic Future Forum?

I remind colleagues that today marks 100 days until the coronation, and I encourage all Members to make use of that moment to bring our communities together and create new projects in our constituencies, which I know is a focus of His Majesty the King.

I anticipated correctly that the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) would not ask me today about our £150 million extra investment in mental health support, or the £50 million to supercharge the UK satellite industry, or the crackdown we announced this week on criminal gangs. I am shocked, quite frankly, Mr Speaker, at the suggestion that there are pre-prepared political rants in this Chamber.

I shall attempt to answer the hon. Lady’s questions. I completely agree with her that we need transparency and truth on all the Bills that she mentioned, so I am grateful for the opportunity to correct some of the misunderstanding in what she outlined about some of them.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is not about nurses. Nursing unions have been hugely responsible when they want to take industrial action, and we have great confidence in the minimum service levels that they have put in place. Very explicitly, we are not taking these powers and bringing forward measures regarding nurses at all, and it is quite wrong to suggest that. Instead, we are focusing on where we have deep concerns about minimum service levels—in two blue-light services and in transport. I remind the House that under the current Mayor of London there have been nearly 100 strikes on public transport in London, and I do not think the commuting public, who rely on public transport, can go on like this. So that is what the Bill is doing, which is very well understood by everyone except, perhaps, those on the Labour Front Bench.

There is clearly an ongoing misunderstanding about the way in which the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will work, and about the scrutiny that will be applied to it. Committees in both Houses are dedicated to looking at that, but there are clearly measures that we will want to continue; we have been explicit about, for instance, environmental protections and protections for workers, to which we are committed. Just last Friday we passed additional measures to protect workers’ tips in the hospitality industry, and this week we have proposed measures to introduce a statutory code so that practices such as firing and rehiring no longer take place. Let me gently remind the hon. Lady what her own party did to its workers at their headquarters in July 2021, when it put many of its staff on very insecure contracts.

We will protect workers’ rights and we will protect environmental standards, but there will be some EU law on our statute book that does not work for the modern economy, and that is what we will focus on and reform. I hope the hon. Lady will appreciate that, and will start focusing on what our economy needs rather than misinterpreting the way the Bill will work and the scrutiny that surrounds it.

I am delighted that the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, a private Member’s Bill presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), completed its Committee stage this week. That is another step towards ensuring that we protect endangered species around the world which some people wish to go and shoot and bring back and turn into ashtrays: it is a huge step forward. We care deeply about the welfare of animals, which is why we introduced the important measures in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

I have placed on record all the work that has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) on football governance, which is a subject close to my heart because I helped to save my club, Portsmouth, in the largest and fastest ever community buy-out in the country’s history, and that club is thriving now. Improving football governance is a priority, and in the course of my work I have been looking at bringing it forward—I would say “soon”, but the hon. Lady has banned me from saying that. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

The hon. Lady made a very sensible suggestion about the Good Friday/Belfast agreement, which was an incredibly important moment for our nation and for Northern Ireland. I will certainly take up that suggestion and see whether we can accommodate it.

Tuesday was National Compliment Day, so I will end by paying the hon. Lady a compliment: these exchanges are always a pleasure.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 19th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 23 January includes:

Monday 23 January—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland Budget Bill.

Tuesday 24 January—Remaining stages of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (day 1).

Wednesday 25 January—Remaining stages of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (day 2).

Thursday 26 January—A general debate on Holocaust Memorial Day. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 27 January—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 30 January includes:

Monday 30 January—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Tuesday 31 January—Opposition day (12th allotted day), a debate in the name of the Leader of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 1 February—Remaining stages of the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords], followed by a debate on a motion to approve the “Charter for Budget Responsibility: Autumn 2022 update”.

Thursday 2 February—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 3 February—Private Members’ Bills.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and for her good wishes last week. As she is about to find out, I am indeed back to something approaching full voice. I put on record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), who so ably stood in for me.

Yesterday, the Leader of the House voted against Parliament taking back control: against MPs deciding which retained EU laws we should drop, repeal or replace—laws covering workers’ rights, environment protection and national security. Does she really think these important issues are best left to the whim of the revolving door of Government Ministers? They are hardly exemplary lawmakers given the chaos they have caused over the last few years. Our primary job as MPs is to legislate; this is what we do. Can I ask her, as Parliament’s representative in Government, whether she made the case in Cabinet for MPs to be given a proper say on behalf of our constituents? Does she not want the British people’s elected representatives to take back control any more?

We must be given the means to scrutinise the Government properly on these laws. It is how parliamentary democracy works—the clue is in the name—so why have the Government only introduced a half-finished online dashboard of EU regulations they plan to scrap? Do they plan to complete this dashboard, and if so, when? Should the public not know if laws are slipping through the cracks and set to be scrapped by accident, and how does the Leader of the House plan to square the practical difficulties of getting through thousands of these this year? This is not making Brexit work.

Can the Leader of the House tell us what is happening with the media Bill, please? It contains important provisions to promote our great British broadcasters on smart devices as well as safeguarding public service broadcasting in the streaming age. The Channel 4 debacle and the general Government chaos have caused unnecessary delay. I understand that we are only going to get a draft Bill. Is that correct, and when will there be a proper announcement?

I heard from the Leader of the House’s speech at the Institute of Government conference on Tuesday that she is a big fan of Government impact assessments. Who knew? She described them as very handy and most helpful in the Ministry—I could not agree more—so why have the Government not published the one on the impact of the sack nurses Bill? We should have seen it before this even reached Parliament, and there is still no sign. Where is it? Yet again, this is a Government swerving scrutiny. What have they got to hide? Is it that the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is supposedly all about safety, yet does not actually mention safety, or is it because it does not actually provide minimum service levels on days when there are not strikes, which after all is the vast majority of the time? When will we see this impact assessment?

The Leader of the House also said on Tuesday that if people stop believing that democracy works for them, “like Tinkerbell’s light”, it will die. I love that line, and I agree. However, unlike in “Peter Pan”, there is no chance of this Tory Government’s light being switched back on. Never mind fairies, the British people do not believe in Tories; only Labour can switch on the light. It should not take magic fairy dust to preserve democracy. It starts with a principled Government leading by example, a Prime Minister who tells the truth, the right Ministers at the Dispatch Box properly equipped to answer questions our constituents want us to ask, and legislation tackling the real problems from 13 years of Tory failure, not headline-grabbers dropped as soon as the Back Benchers get bored. I know these duties of a functioning Government will never land with the Tories, but they will with Labour. The right hon. Lady’s Government might be away with the fairies; this Labour Government in waiting are ready to treat Parliament with the respect British people deserve.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Happy Chinese new year to everyone and congratulations to HMS Oardacious, which I mentioned in a previous session, on its record-breaking row across the Atlantic.

It is very good to see the hon. Lady back and in full voice, and I am glad she has been paying attention to my speech—I am very flattered by that. Before turning to her specific questions, she invited me to compare and contrast our record against hers. Let me take just one example—waiting lists is a topic on our minds at the moment. We obviously had a huge catch-up job to do during covid and new diagnostic centres are bringing down those waiting lists, but let us look at the figures for those waiting more than a year for treatment. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, before the pandemic, under 10 years of a Conservative Government, the figure was 1,643, and when covid hit this autumn it was over 400,000. That is the scale of the challenge we face and is what I was concentrating on in my speech. It is the same story all over the UK: waiting times are longer in Wales. But what were the figures under Labour? With no covid—and, let us be fair, after 10 years of a Labour Government—they were 578,682.

Would the hon. Lady like me to go on to talk about Labour’s treatment of junior doctors, or the scandal of MRSA or C. diff infections in our hospitals, or the lunacy of private finance initiative schemes which saw us paying £300 to change a lightbulb, or the treatment centres that had machines that went “ping” but did not treat any patients? I could go on, but let me address the points she has raised.

The EU retained law Bill has good scrutiny: it has dedicated Committees both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We can do a number of things focusing on and prioritising particular areas of reform or carrying over laws if we think that is the right thing to do.

I understand the pitch the hon. Lady and her party are making to be the party of taking back control; indeed this week Labour announced legislative plans and a take back control Act. There were no details of course, so let me suggest what that might look like. A take back control act might have been voting with us to deliver Brexit; it might have been walking through the Aye Lobby on our borders Bill, or championing new trade agreements, or supporting us in the competition Bill and the Procurement Bill or the EU retained law Bill or—I live in hope—supporting us on the legislation we will bring forward to tackle small boats. All those Bills increased fairness and freedom for our citizens, improved wage growth and gave improvements to consumer power, improvements to help businesses grow and improvements to speed up the take-up of scientific breakthrough.

Labour’s take back control Act is not a piece of legislation; it is a piece of performance art. While we power up and level up our communities, while we catch up with covid, while we raise up the nation—millions more in work, 1 million fewer workless households, 10% more in good or outstanding schools—Labour sucks up to union bosses, pulls up the social mobility drawbridge because of its dogma, and tells its MPs to shut up on social issues such as gender recognition.

Other business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 15th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 19 December will include:

Monday 19 December—Second Reading of the Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 20 December—Debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. The subject for the debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the Christmas recess at the conclusion of business on Tuesday 20 December and return on Monday 9 January.

The provisional business for the week commencing 9 January includes:

Monday 9 January—Second Reading of the Procurement Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 10 January—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Reduction) Bill, followed by a general debate on a subject to be confirmed. On that point, I am aware that yesterday we had to pull a debate on Ukraine because of the Home Secretary’s statement. Our solidarity with the people of Ukraine remains unwavering. I will be listening, as always, to suggestions from colleagues on what the topic of that future debate should be.

Wednesday 11 January—Opposition day (11th allotted day). Debate in the name of the official Opposition on a subject to be announced.

Thursday 12 January—Debate on a motion on the current situation in Iran and the treatment of protestors, followed by a general debate on landfill tax fraud. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 13 January—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 16 January includes:

Monday 16 January—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Online Safety Bill. The other business will be announced in the usual way.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business, and may I start by wishing her and you, Mr Speaker, as well as all House staff, Members and their staff a very merry Christmas? Mr Speaker, did you know that 1843 was a very special year for the Victorian revival of Christmas? As well as the world’s first Christmas cards, it also gave us one of Britain’s best-loved novels, “A Christmas Carol”, a beautiful story of the transformation of an unscrupulous boss who treats working people poorly, visited by three ghosts putting him on a path to redemption. Even Christmas miracles can only go so far, so I am not expecting the Government to follow suit, but let us give it a try anyway.

I will start with a reflective visit from the ghost of Christmas past. After 12 years of Tory failure, what have they actually achieved? What will they be remembered for in 30, 40 or 50 Christmases’ time? This country feels broken. Since 2010, national debt has soared. That was before the pandemic and Ukraine. Child poverty, crime and homelessness—up. The pound, healthy life expectancy and standards in public life—down. Labour’s Sure Start centres, libraries and football pitches across the country—closed. Where in the future business is a plan to fix all that? The British people deserve better.

Successive Tory Prime Ministers have said they would fix the crisis in social care. Most famously, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) on the steps of Downing Street promised to fix it “once and for all”. What happened to that plan? The sector is in crisis this Christmas. Do the Government have a plan? If so, will a Minister come to the House and answer Members’ important questions? On other health policy there is failure too. We were told that the Government’s 10-year plan for dementia would be published this year. Where is it?

Things do not get better with a visit from the ghost of Christmas present. We have a Tory cost of living crisis made in Downing Street and more than a decade of damage to our public services, leaving backlog Britain at breaking point, with backlogs in the courts and a fraction of asylum claims dealt with each year, costing the taxpayer millions in hotel costs and letting vulnerable people down. As for the NHS, we are heading into winter with more people waiting for treatment than at any time in history, and they are waiting longer than ever. Nothing is working and it is on the Government. They could be training 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax break. That is Labour’s plan; where is the Government’s? Where in the future business is the Bill to fix the NHS?

Then we have the ghost of Christmas yet to come. With the Tories, we are set for weaker economic growth, bigger backlogs and worsening crises, but the lesson from the story is that it does not have to be this way. There is hope. I am sad to say—actually, no I am not, but I will say it anyway—that it is not “PM4PM”. The alternative choice is a Keir Starmer-led Labour Government with an ambitious, bold, practical legislative agenda and a plan that speaks to people’s priorities, not a Government picking up Bills, waving them around for a bit and then dropping them when their Back Benchers do not like them anymore. We have housing targets gone, the Schools Bill gone, and the transport Bill missing in action.

Although I welcome the statement following business questions on the contaminated blood scandal, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) has been pushing for it since March. Given that one victim dies every four days, may I ask the Leader of the House to push for more regular updates next year?

I was glad to hear the Leader of the House say recently that she will be sticking around to fight the next general election. She knows that since she was appointed to the role, I have enjoyed our exchanges, and I will enjoy them even more when we swap places. As we look to 2023, can I ask her to make a new year’s resolution to end Government disdain for Parliament? Will the Government treat Members and our constituents with respect and answer written parliamentary questions and correspondence on time? Will they provide comprehensive copies of the correct ministerial statements to you, Mr Speaker, and to Opposition Front Benchers? Will they get their act together and stop dropping Bills and promises to voters? Whether the Government can muster the courage to call a general election next year, or we have to wait until 2024, Labour is ready. We have a plan, and we are ready to win. Happy new year.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for presiding over the minute’s silence we had earlier today. It was an historic moment to mark the 80th anniversary of the first time the House heard about what we now know as the holocaust. Because of that, I hope you will allow me just to put the names of the survivors who joined us today on record. Thank you to Mala Tribich MBE, Steven Frank BEM, Dr Alfred Garwood, John Hajdu MBE, Joan Salter MBE, Dr Martin Stern MBE and Yvonne Bernstein. I also thank the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for their work. I am sure all hon. Members would concur with that.

We had two important visits this week, from His Majesty the King and, more significantly, Santa. I had a letter from the children in the nursery, who were keen for me to put on record our thanks to Santa for visiting them this Christmas and to assure them that we will not have to put minimum service standards into legislation for Santa and his elves; they will be working over Christmas. I also put on record my thanks to the staff of the House, who have done an incredible job this autumn term with some important events. I wish them all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

I turn to the hon. Lady’s points. On the infected blood inquiry, I am pleased that more information has come forward. We need to keep people informed. I set up the compensation study and it is incredibly important that those interim payments are made and that people are fully compensated for the suffering they have had to endure.

I knew that the hon. Lady would make a Christmas-themed statement today, and she never disappoints. She talked about the ghost of Christmas past, but if it appeared and took us back to pre-2010, we would discover some interesting things. For example, the unemployment rate, which is now 3.5%, was consistently 8% under Labour. During the entire period that the Conservatives have been in coalition or full Administration, council tax has gone up by 36%; in the same timeframe under Labour, it went up by 110%. On that trend, people would be paying £1,000 extra on their council tax bills today.

We have reduced fuel duty by 7.5%; Labour put it up by 42%. If that trend had continued, it would be 81p per litre. We now have 10% more good or outstanding schools; in Labour’s Wales, teaching numbers have fallen by 10%. We also know that in Wales, where Labour is in Government, waiting lists are five times higher than in England. The Defence budget is now in balance, but when we came into office in 2010, the deficit, including the equipment programme, was £71 billion, thanks to Labour—twice the size of the Defence budget.

That is why, although we have faced tough times and there are tough times ahead this winter, I thank my lucky stars that this Government are leading the country through them, because Labour’s record speaks volumes about its inability to do that. Every time the Conservatives come to power, our country is improved; every time Labour comes to power, the reverse is true. I sincerely hope that when the ghost of Christmas present visits us, it will be to celebrate a fifth historic term for a Conservative Administration. Happy Christmas, everyone.

Draft Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body (Abolition) Regulations 2022

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Monday 12th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

General Committees
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank colleagues for their contributions, and particularly the shadow Leader of the House for the collaborative way in which we have worked on these matters together. I echo her thanks to all Members who have been to many meetings over many years and spoken to many colleagues to get us to where we are today. I think this is a move motivated by wanting some pragmatism and granularity to the schedule of works. It will mean we can be more creative in how we do the works. I do not think work that has been done to date will be wasted. A huge amount of survey work has been done, and that will help inform options next year, which will form the basis of the consultation with Members.

If we have some granularity in the programme, we will find that we do have other options, which are very difficult to assess at the moment. We might have a different approach to some of our recesses. We might use some of the new technology we used during covid, such as the remote voting system, which cost £1.3 million and was used for eight days. We will have more options and more flexibility going forward.

Critically, as the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside points out, it is about maximising value, not just controlling costs. I can give the hon. Member for Bristol West the reassurances she seeks. I hope I have given her that impression in the meetings we have been in together. We want to get a move on, and we do understand the concerns. It is why we have prioritised safety at the heart of our approach, as she will know. We are custodians of this incredible building, and we need to safeguard it.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for giving way on that point. Will she concede that at some point, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside said, we are going to have to move out? The nature of what is underneath us and all around and the connectedness of the two buildings means that even the option that has been touted by many people—that the Lords move out and that we move over there—is just not viable. We made enough fuss when some steps were missing a ramp last summer. It is not like just having builders in to put a new carpet down at home. Will she acknowledge that we are going to have to move out at some point?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I do not want to pre-empt the work that is being done next year, but the hon. Lady is right. I am very sceptical about us being able to dislodge their lordships for starters. Although there will be things that can be done to work around and bypass systems while they are worked on, we obviously have to take into account noise, disruption and a whole raft of things. I think the majority of our colleagues want to minimise the amount of time we are out of the building. Of course they do. I think the problem that happened with what she refers to is that, quite rightly, people were given a task, but the conclusions people came to were too far adrift from the expectations.

I think there is a way through this, but unless we change the approach, get granularity in so we can see the schedule of works that needs to happen, and unless we can get into that Chamber and have a proper survey done, we will not move forward fast. That is our shared aim, and I think that is where we will get to. The right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside, who has put in more hours than most on this, rightly notes that today we are just implementing a decision of both Houses. I want to make progress, and I want people to be prepared when they are considering standing for election and when colleagues are considering re-standing that they know what future Parliaments will look like in this place. I think we will be helping ourselves.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 8th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 12 December will include:

Monday 12 December—Remaining stages of the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Voter Identification Regulations 2022, followed by a motion relating to the first and third reports of the Committee on Standards on a new code of conduct and a guide to the rules.

Tuesday 13 December—Remaining Stages of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Wednesday 14 December—General debate on Ukraine, followed by an Opposition half day debate (10th allotted day, first part) in the name of the Scottish National party, subject to be announced.

Thursday 15 December—Debate on a motion on self-disconnection of prepayment meters, followed by a general debate on rail transport services to the communities served by the west coast main line. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 16 December—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 19 December includes:

Monday 19 December—Second Reading of the Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords]

Tuesday 20 December—Debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the Christmas recess at the conclusion of business on Tuesday 20 December and return on Monday 9 January.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I barely know where to start, but let us try with this morning’s chaos, which is not the only example but the latest example of a Minister failing in their duty to provide a copy of a ministerial statement to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Opposition leads, so that they are left listening to a statement that bears no resemblance to the one to which they were expecting to respond. It happened twice last week, and I asked the Leader of the House if she would drop her colleagues a note to remind them of their duty. I am dismayed at the absolute shambles we saw this morning. It is just not on.

In relation to the quality and timeliness of ministerial responses to correspondence from MPs, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) first contacted the Home Office on behalf of his constituent on 1 October 2021, and he received a response this week, 14 months later. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) waited 17 months for her response, only to find out that more information was needed before a substantial answer could be given. The civil servants do their best—an incredible job, in fact—in tackling the backlog, but it has been created by successive Tory Ministers. The Leader of the House has previously spoken to the permanent secretary about this, and I thank her for that, but it needs political leadership. Can she please speak with the Home Secretary about the importance of treating our constituents with respect and highlight the importance of meeting the 20-day service standard for responses?

In our successful Opposition day motion on Tuesday, we called on the Government to end the 200-year-old non-domiciled tax status, which costs taxpayers £3.2 billion a year. We would invest that in one of the biggest NHS workforce expansions in history, which is so desperately needed, but I know that the right hon. Lady seemed to side with non-doms over the NHS. What does she have to say to the 5,000 people in her constituency who faced a wait of 28 days or more to see a GP just in October, or the further 8,000 who had to wait more than two weeks? Does she not think that the great people of Portsmouth North deserve a guaranteed face-to-face appointment, which they would get with a Labour Government? Our motion called on the Government to implement Labour’s plan by doubling the number of medical training places, delivering 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements and 5,000 more health visitors, and training twice the number of district nurses. Our motion was successful, so when are the Government going to get on and deliver it?

Our Humble Address calling on the Government the same day to release documents relating to the awarding of Government personal protective equipment contracts was also successful. The VIP lane for PPE is a scandal of epic proportions and has encouraged a shameful waste of taxpayers’ money, and we want it back. Ministers have flushed billions down the drain on gloves, gowns and goggles that were overpriced, unusable or undelivered, and even now, the British people are picking up a daily tab of £700,000 for storage of PPE that is unfit for use. A Labour Government would get a grip on this, end the waste and provide sound management of taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, in the Lords last week, a high turnout of Conservative peers voted to keep the VIP lanes for direct award in procurement. When the Leader of the House brings the Procurement Bill back to this House, will she at least restrict the use of VIP lanes? Given that our motion was successful, can she tell us when, how and where the documents about these contracts will be released? It is really important, and I hope for a direct answer.

I return to Government chaos on the handling of legislation and their sofa down the back of which Bills seem to be disappearing at a rate of knots. Never mind Bills not making progress—some, like the Online Safety Bill, are heading back in time and going back upstairs. We hear that others are never going to happen at all. Just yesterday, the Government dropped two more. The Education Secretary confirmed that the Schools Bill is gone. Could the Leader of the House tell us why? The Transport Secretary admitted that the revolving door of Government Ministers in his Department was not “ideal” —quite the understatement!

Later today in the Adjournment debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), the shadow Deputy Leader of the House, continues her fantastic campaign against the antisocial use of e-scooters. Despite a commitment from the Government in the Queen’s Speech this year, the Transport Secretary now says that there will almost certainly be no transport Bill in this Parliament.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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As my hon. Friend says, there is no transport. The sofa just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Could the Leader of the House confirm whether that is true? Are the Government planning to break yet another promise to the British people? Is there any government actually taking place?

Whether it is the NHS or procurement, schools or transport, this Government’s incompetence and chaos know no bounds. Their inability to govern is quite literally bringing this country to a grinding halt. Nothing is working, and it is on them—ripping apart public services and crashing the economy, and working people are paying the price. The voters deserve a proper say on the country’s future and a Labour Government.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by wishing everyone a happy Christmas Jumper Day and wishing England good luck on Saturday? I also wish Godspeed to the four Royal Navy submariners of HMS Audacious as they set off to row unsupported the 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to promote and fundraise for resilience, good mental health and wellbeing. I hope the whole House will wish them well.

I would like to give my apologies to the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), the House and you, Mr Speaker, for what happened this morning. I know that everyone is pulling together to ensure that a full statement can be made available to the Opposition and all Members of this House. I will certainly be following that up, as you would expect me to, Mr Speaker.

On correspondence, I agree with the hon. Lady: all Departments should be meeting those targets and hoping to exceed them. We are doing a lot of work with correspondence teams and parliamentary Clerks, as well as advisers, to ensure that this is in a better place. If anyone has correspondence that is outstanding, please flag it with my office and we will follow it up.

The hon. Lady mentions health and my constituency in particular. I have to tell her that in 2010, when I came into Parliament, my hospital was falling to bits and we had the worst MRSA rates in the country. Those things are vastly improved. We do not have to speculate as to what a Labour Government would do for the NHS; we have only to look at Wales to see that in action. One in 20 people are on a waiting list in England; one in four are in Wales. I am happy to rest on our record versus Labour’s.

The hon. Lady raises the serious matter of PPE contracts. I remind her that I spent a large part of the first year of the pandemic on the telephone to all hon. Members. She will know that, because she was a diligent frequent flier on those 10 am calls. I answered questions from every hon. Member who needed assistance, such as in getting PPE for their hospitals. I fielded questions and concerns, and raised matters with every Government Department on their behalf, particularly for the 2019 intake who had recently come into the House.

In my experience, hon. Members on both sides of the House flagged many companies that changed production lines to help to produce infection-control items, supplied those items at cost or donated them, or opened up unused factory space at their own cost to help the national effort. Those organisations that pulled together and did their bit to help us to get through that dreadful pandemic represent the bulk of British industry. It is important to say that because—God forbid—if we are ever in that situation again, we need such firms to step up and help us, so it is important not to fold them in with companies that were, frankly, profiteering and whose practices are under question.

The hon. Lady knows that investigations are going on, including fraud investigations, with regard to certain cases, as well as mediation and potential litigation, and that particular documentation cannot be released until those investigations are concluded. She will also know the Government’s stance on this from many debates in this place, including the Opposition day debate that was held the other day.

I question the hon. Lady’s characterisation of the Government. This week alone, we have heard announcements on £500 million for schools and colleges in England to spend on energy efficiency upgrades; an additional £50 million top-up to the homelessness prevention grant, which brings the total grant to £366 million; the launch of our first helpline for victims of rape and sexual abuse; the new elective recovery taskforce; gas imports; and new freeports being set up, as well as the Royal Assent to four Bills. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 5 December will include:

Monday 5 December—Remaining stages of the Online Safety Bill (day 2), followed by consideration of a motion for recommittal.

Tuesday 6 December—Opposition day (9th allotted day): a debate in the name of the official Opposition on a subject to be announced.

Wednesday 7 December—Remaining stages of the Financial Services and Markets Bill.

Thursday 8 December—General debate on the 12th report of the Health and Social Care Committee, on cancer services, and the Government’s response, followed by a general debate on the future of BBC radio. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee, with the first debate having been recommended by the Liaison Committee.

Friday 9 December—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 12 December will include:

Monday 12 December—Remaining stages of the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Voter Identification Regulations 2022, followed by a motion relating to the first and third reports of the Committee on Standards, on a new code of conduct and a guide to the rules.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I am pleased to hear that the Standards Committee’s recommendations to strengthen the code of conduct for MPs will come back to the House a week on Monday. I thank her for that, because I have been calling for it for months. I will study the motion carefully when it is published.

Perhaps the right hon. Lady can channel this apparent new-found momentum on standards in public life in the direction of the Prime Minister, who has still not appointed an ethics adviser. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) said yesterday,

“the Prime Minister…promised to appoint an independent ethics adviser as one of his first acts”.—[Official Report, 30 November 2022; Vol. 723, c. 903.]

We are still waiting. The Prime Minister says, “Soon.” The Leader of the House says, “Soon.” What does “soon” actually mean? Can we have a timeframe for how “soon” an ethics adviser will be in place? Could we have that timeframe soon?

It seems that my plea last week for Departments to send Ministers who can actually provide answers to urgent questions went unheard. As well as being unable to define “soon”, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, who answered my right hon. Friend yesterday, could not say how many candidates have already turned down the ethics adviser role. There are rumours that it is as many as seven. Is it any wonder, when the last two postholders resigned in despair? An independent ethics adviser is only as strong as the powers that they have. Labour’s independent integrity and ethics commission will stamp out Tory sleaze and scandal, and restore trust in politics. Will the so-called independent ethics adviser, whenever they are appointed, have the power to launch their own investigations?

Ministers are meant to give reasonable notice, and actual copies, of ministerial statements to the Chair and to us. I am afraid to say that again this week—at least twice, to my knowledge—that has not happened. It is unacceptable. It is our job to hold the Government to account and they must give us the opportunity to do so properly. Their disregard for this House cannot continue. Will the Leader of the House please make that point to her Cabinet colleagues?

Last week, the Leader of the House completely failed to address my concerns about the Government’s chaotic handling of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and the Online Safety Bill. She said that she would

“make an announcement…in the usual way.”—[Official Report, 24 November 2022; Vol. 723, c. 451.]

But there is nothing usual about this Government’s handling of their flagship legislation. I notice that today she did not announce the return of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. Dare I ask whether it will be coming back before Christmas—or will it also be “soon”?

The Online Safety Bill is another example. Never mind coming back “soon” with this one—the Tories are taking us back in time. By recommitting—sending back to Committee—a part of the Bill that we had already agreed, they are undoing the decisions of this House. While child sexual abuse and scams online skyrocket, along with content promoting self-harm and suicide, the Government are dragging their feet. Attempting to remove the crucial section that deals with legal but harmful content gives a green light to abusers, and takes away the framework that could deal with forms of harm that we do not yet know about. Why are the Government trying to do this? Last week the Leader of the House said that the Bill would

“be making progress through the House.”—[Official Report, 24 November 2022; Vol. 723, c. 451.]

Can she really look campaigners in the eye and say that the Government are not trying to kick the Bill into the long grass, perhaps in an attempt to prevent it from becoming law?

However, this is not just about legislation. Public strategies are a mess. There is confusion over whether the Government’s plans to deal with health inequality, tobacco and obesity have been shelved. The gambling reform White Paper is up in the air, despite high levels of problem gambling, and related mental health effects and suicides. May we have ministerial statements on these important matters, so that Ministers can clarify what on earth the Government are up to?

Reports unpublished, consultations unanswered—Whitehall must have an enormous sofa, given how much the Government are losing down the back of it. They have still not responded to the consultation on flexible working after more than a year, and meanwhile there are 100,000 fewer women in employment than before the covid-19 pandemic. Labour has a plan to help those women who want to return to work but are being held back: our new deal for working people will make the right to flexible working the default from day one. What is the Government’s plan? When will they be bothered even to respond? “Soon”, presumably.

There is a pattern here. With the Tories, psychodrama and grubby backroom deals come before legislation to protect children online. With the Tories, handouts to oil and gas giants come before public health. With the Tories, we have a weak Prime Minister whose poor judgment puts party before country. A Government who are unable to govern should make way for one who can: a Labour Government cannot come “soon” enough.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me first put on record my praise for, and pride in the performance of, Wales and England. I know that many Members have already paid tribute to their performance to date in the World Cup.

I note that later today we will have a Backbench Business Committee debate on World Aids Day, and I am proud of the fact that the UK is one of the largest donors to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I pay tribute to all the healthcare professionals who have done so much in recent years to reduce infections, as well as the organisations with which they work—in particular, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.

The hon. Lady mentioned the debate on standards that will take place on Monday week. As well as supporting the bulk of the Standards Committee’s recommendations, the Government will take further action, which I hope the House will also welcome. We will publish the motion—soon? [Laughter.] Very swiftly.

The hon. Lady referred to urgent questions. We have just been given an excellent example of responses to urgent questions by the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), who was more than capable of answering the supplementary questions and whose approach to such challenges will, I think, have given Members a great deal of confidence.

The hon. Lady mentioned the Government’s record of supporting women, in particular, in the workplace. I am very proud of our record of getting 2 million more women into work since 2010, by means of a raft of measures, but there is more that we wish to do.

As I said in my statement, the Online Safety Bill will be returning to the House. This is a vital and world-leading piece of legislation. It focuses particularly on protecting children and stamping out illegal activity online, which are top priorities for the Government. It is groundbreaking legislation, and it delivers on our manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world in which to be online. We are tabling a recommittal motion, and the recommitted measures will come back to the whole House for a second Report stage. That will take place swiftly, allowing proper scrutiny. This is an established parliamentary procedure—it has been used before—and it will ensure that the Bill can be strengthened while also ensuring that Members have the opportunity to take part in a full debate on the changes to the Bill.

All other business will be announced in the usual way—soon—and I can tell the hon. Lady that that means 8 December.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 28 November includes:

Monday 28 November—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Tuesday 29 November—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill.

Wednesday 30 November—Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Thursday 1 December—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Counsellors of State Bill [Lords], followed by a general debate on World AIDS Day. The subject for this debate has been determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 2 December—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 5 December includes:

Monday 5 December—Remaining stages of the Online Safety Bill (day 2).

Right hon. and hon. Members may also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will now rise for the Christmas recess at the close of business on Tuesday 20 December, and return on Monday 9 January 2023. The House will rise for the February recess at the close of business on Thursday 9 February, and return on Monday 20 February. The House will rise for the Easter recess at the close of business on Thursday 30 March, and return on Monday 17 April. The House will rise for the coronation recess at the close of business on Wednesday 3 May, and return on Tuesday 9 May. The House will rise for the Whitsun recess at the close of business on Thursday 25 May, and return on Monday 5 June. The House will rise for the summer recess at the close of business on Thursday 20 July. I will announce further recess dates in the usual way. I hope that news is welcomed by the House.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the business and the recess dates.

Tomorrow is the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which I have been involved with for decades, so it is desperately sad that we still have two women a week tragically murdered by partners or ex-partners, the same as in 1992. Laws have changed, but sadly too many attitudes have not. I also recognise Islamophobia Awareness Month and join my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) in urging the Government to produce the official definition of Islamophobia; it is three years since they promised to.

I must admit that a bit of infighting has hit the shadow Leader of the House team: a bit more than the Bristol channel divides us this week with England taking on Wales on Tuesday. The Leader of the House’s party will be far more prepared for division among colleagues than we are—because it has had plenty of practice this year—but may I take the opportunity to wish both home nations well? Who knows—maybe we will see each other in the final?

The Leader of the House’s business statement is testament to her Prime Minister’s poor judgment and weak leadership. Pulling Monday’s votes on their flagship Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill marks just the latest stage of the Tories’ long-running psychodrama. In one corner—the Prime Minister desperately trying to find at least some manifesto commitments that he can still deliver on. In the other corner—50 of his own MPs threatening to back an amendment against their Government’s own Bill. It is a complete shambles, with the Government running from their own Back Benchers, leaving the levelling-up agenda in tatters and, more importantly, the British people with a broken housing market. If he cannot stand up to his own party, how on earth is he going to stand up against vested interests? Do the Government even intend to continue with the Bill? If so, when will they bring it back?

Since I became shadow Leader of the House, I have had a ringside seat for the chaotic way in which the Government have dragged the Online Safety Bill through Parliament with the grace and decorum of a reversing dump truck. It was first mooted a decade ago and it has been four years since they promised it. In that time, online crime has exploded, child sexual abuse online has become rife and scams have proliferated. I now hear that, in a bizarre move, the Government want to send the Bill back to Committee to try to remove a crucial section that deals with legal but harmful content. The Bill was designed to deal with legal but harmful content, self-harm, suicide and racist content, so why are they trying to take that out? If the Bill does not come back soon, it risks falling entirely—it will run into the end of the Session. The Leader of the House knows that there is no option to carry it over in those circumstances. So will we have Third Reading on Monday 5 December? Will it come back to the Commons in time to finish remaining stages before the end of the Session? Will she guarantee that there will be enough time?

It is not just the Tories making poor use of parliamentary time. The SNP is busy debating independence and a plan to turn the next general election into a de facto referendum, rather than getting rid of Tories—and delivering a Labour Government. The NHS—Labour’s greatest achievement—was invented in Scotland. NHS bosses in Scotland have set out plans to privatise the health service. Should they not be working out how to sort out 15 years of SNP mismanagement and underfunding instead?

Another issue that I have raised before is the Government sending Ministers to answer questions who simply do not have answers. We had the latest incident on Monday. A Minister was dragged to the Chamber to answer an urgent question on the COP27 climate conference who said herself that she was “not the Climate Minister”. Members have important questions to put to Ministers on behalf of our constituents. I ask the Leader of the House—not for the first time—to press the Government on the importance of sending Ministers to the Dispatch Box who are actually able to answer questions.

If the Conservative party cannot fill its legislative programme effectively, it could make way for a party that can. Does the Leader of the House want to swap places? As Leader of the House, within the first 100 days of the next Labour Government, I would schedule an employment Bill—legislation for an economy built on fair pay, job security and dignity. There would also be a race equality law to tackle racial inequality and legislation to kick-start a credible strategy for fairer, greener growth. That is what we would get with a Labour Government. So she can swap at any time she likes.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I start by joining in the hon. Lady’s good wishes to both England and Wales for their matches tomorrow; I wish them all the luck in the world. It would be wonderful to see them both in the final, although we may be faced with difficulties if that comes to pass.

The hon. Lady mentions violence against women and girls, an incredibly important issue. Our nation can take great pride in the work we have done globally to combat it. In particular, I put on record my thanks to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office envoy. I think a summit is taking place very shortly to help consolidate a lot of the work on this and the work Lord Hague has done in putting it firmly on the agenda globally. This country has some great non-governmental organisations who are also doing fantastic work globally, supported by the UK Government, but we know there is still more to do. There are some nations in the world where perhaps only 1% of women and girls will not have faced horrific violence, so we must continue to do all we can to ensure every woman and every girl across the world can grow up in peace and security.

The hon. Lady mentions that it is Islamophobia Awareness Month. The Government are committed to ending all anti-Muslim hatred. Our work ranges from supporting Tell MAMA to our places of worship protective security fund, which for this financial year is £24.5 million. We are also bringing in new measures to protect faith schools. The work of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the definition of Islamo- phobia is progressing. My understanding—I will correct this if it is not the case—is that there is a difficulty with the definition formulated by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims and its compatibility with the Equality Act 2010, but the Department is looking at that. If that is not the case, I shall make sure the hon. Lady knows the facts.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady has still not condemned the train strikes, even in the run-up to Christmas. Many people working over Christmas will want to visit relatives. For those who are completely reliant on train services, the strikes are very disappointing indeed. I still hope the Opposition will support our legislation to ensure that minimum standards on these important services are maintained.

As for other legislation, I will make an announcement on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and the Online Safety Bill in the usual way. They will still be making progress through the House. I hope that Opposition Members will support those important Bills.

The hon. Lady mentions what Labour has to offer in its legislative programme and its policies. On the Government Benches, we are tackling the serious challenges that our country faces. In contrast, Labour’s policies would make things worse. Labour’s policy is £115 billion of unfunded spending, which would fuel inflation. Labour voted against the effective £1,000 tax cut for low-income families, when it voted against reducing the universal credit taper rate. It is not on the side of working families. It has no plan on illegal migration. It voted against the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and would scrap the efforts we are making to deter and frustrate illegal migration. And I seriously doubt that a Leader of the Opposition who voted to block us leaving the EU 48 times really wants to deliver on the Brexit dividend. I think the public, when they are asked, will look at Labour and see it has no clue and no plan, and say, “No thanks.”

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 17th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. As I am supporting the Ask Her To Stand campaign this week, I thought I would dress in the appropriate colours.

It appears that the Government have simply given up listening to Parliament. On Tuesday, Labour gave them the opportunity to start putting right their crashing of the economy, which hiked mortgages and rents, but they did not show up and we won. One would not think that they still had a working of majority of 69. Is the Prime Minister’s leadership really so weak that he that he cannot carry his own MPs on a vote?

Labour called for, and Parliament voted for, the former Prime Minister and Chancellor to waive from their severance pay the average monthly £500 mortgage increase that families now face as a result of the Tory economic crash; yet Tory MPs backed their mates getting £35,000 over working people who have been left to pay for the mistakes that they made—a reward for just days in post in which they caused economic meltdown. Can the Leader of the House say with a straight face that they deserve this reward from taxpayers?

Even under their minority Government in 2018, the Government showed up to defeat censure motions. May I remind the Leader of the House that, by convention, censure motions results in MPs’ losing salaries or ministerial jobs? Governments have even fallen. The Government cannot just pick and choose which votes they will respect and which they will ignore, so will they uphold the will of this House? Will the right hon. Members for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) and for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) give back from their ministerial severance the £500 average mortgage increase that they caused? The new Prime Minister said he would lead a Government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability”, so why is he willing to break long-standing parliamentary precedent in his first few weeks? Does the Leader of the House agree that the Prime Minister really needs to hurry up with appointing an ethics adviser? Will she give us a timeframe?

We agree that it is important that Members can hold Ministers to account in this place first, yet the Government briefed out almost every single part of today’s statement to the press. That is discourteous to Members and to our constituents, on whose behalf we want to put important questions to the Chancellor. It is not the first time, and it seems to be part of a wider culture of disrespect to Parliament. Has the Leader of the House spoken to Ministers about this issue, as she said she would? If she has, clearly she was not heard or was ignored, so will she remind her colleagues that major policy statements should be made by Ministers in this House first, not briefed to the media?

Labour’s green prosperity plan would build industry, create jobs, grow the economy and tackle climate change. Our national wealth fund would give the British public a stake in energy and climate investments. We would insulate millions of cold homes, and invest in onshore and offshore wind, tidal and solar. We would make fairer choices on tax, including by scrapping the non-dom tax status, taxing private schools, and making oil and gas companies pay their fair share, and we have a proper procurement plan to ensure we are buying, selling and making more in Britain. Those are just some of Labour’s serious plans for fairer, sustainable, green economic growth.

Where is the Tory plan? Today, non-doms have just kept their tax break. For working people, bills are up, wages are down, and they have just had a massive tax hike. The Chancellor told us that his autumn statement will help Britain face into the storm. Does he not get it? This Government are the storm. They have been the dreadful soaking rain, the howling wind blowing the roofs of, and the puddles drenching us with muddy, cold water with every passing bus—if one ever arrives—for 12 long years. This is a Tory crisis made in Downing Street. They crashed the economy; they hiked mortgages and rents; and they have presided over rising prices, falling wages and rising taxes. This is on them. The British people must be given the opportunity to elect a Labour Government, who would make fair choices and have an actual plan to get our economy firing on all cylinders—and it cannot come soon enough.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I congratulate the men’s cricket team on their win at the T20, and wish—as I am sure the shadow Leader of the House would want to—England and Wales good luck in their first matches in the World cup?

I compliment the hon. Lady on her suffragette ensemble today, although given what has happened this week, I would caution her against wearing it in the Scottish Parliament.

On a serious note, we had an urgent question earlier this week on the situation in Iran, but may I place on record my concern? My thoughts are with the people of Iran, particularly in the wake of the decision taken by the Iranian Parliament this week. Thank you for allowing me to say that, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let me turn to the hon. Lady’s questions. I am keen that all news is heard by this House first, and will continue to make those representations. She will know that it is really important that embargoes are not broken on events such as the financial statement. I will emphasise that to my colleagues.

The hon. Lady will know that the decision on the appointment of an ethics adviser is with the Prime Minister, and I know he is focusing on it. She will also know that the Prime Minister very much wants me to concentrate on such matters, particularly in this House. We have had some good discussions about how we might join up actions that this House, our respective political parties and the Government are taking to give ourselves the best chance of creating the best possible culture in this place.

We have just heard from the Chancellor. The shadow Leader of the House, like me, was here for much of the statement, but she clearly missed the news that the Office for Budget Responsibility has confirmed that the chief reason we are facing these issues is the global situation, and in particular Russia’s illegal, economic war that is levelled at every household, every business, and every school and hospital in this country. We have set out the fact that we are strengthening the public finances, bringing down inflation, protecting jobs, investing in nuclear power, and putting in place the biggest programme of capital investment in 40 years. There is £1.5 billion more for Scotland, £1.2 billion more for Wales and £600 million more for Northern Ireland. We are protecting standards in schools, cutting NHS waiting times and funding social care. We have committed to the energy bill cap, and to supporting the most vulnerable in our community with regard to pensions, benefits and the national living wage.

In stark contrast, although the hon. Lady talked about 12 years of failure, it is Labour that has failed: it is failing in opposition; it is failing in Scotland; it is failing the people of Wales; it is failing to form a plan, as we heard from the shadow Chancellor today; and it is failing to free itself from its union paymasters, because it refuses to back our legislation on minimum standards. Every single time Labour is in government, it leaves the country in a worse state than when it inherited it. The reverse is true of my party. On this side of the House, we have a clear plan. On the other side of the House, there is no plan.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 3rd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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To ask the Leader of the House if she will give us the forthcoming business.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 7 November will include:

Monday 7 November—Second Reading of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 8 November—Opposition day (7th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 9 November—Debate on a motion on the UK response to the human rights and economic situation in Sri Lanka, followed by a general debate on levelling up rural Britain. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the November recess at close of business on Wednesday 9 November and return on Monday 14 November.

The provisional business for the week commencing 14 November includes:

Monday 14 November—General debate on the Australia and New Zealand trade deals, followed by a general debate on Ukraine.

Tuesday 15 November—Opposition day (8th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 16 November—Remaining stages of the National Security Bill.

Thursday 17 November—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor will make his autumn statement, followed by business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 18 November—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 21 November includes:

Monday 21 November—Second Reading of the Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords].

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), the shadow Deputy Leader of the House, who is on a Bill Committee, reminded me that it is the 183rd anniversary of the Chartist uprising in her city of Newport. Working people marching against an ineffective Government, high prices and low wages, and demanding more frequent elections—does that sound familiar? The Chartists knew how precious democracy was. Sadly, we have not had an election yet this year, but we have had three Prime Ministers, and I wonder what the Chartists would have made of that.

I am glad to see the Leader of the House in her place and not joining the former Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock) down under for any bushtucker trials. We know that she enjoys business questions far too much for that, but we also know that she is a bit partial to reality TV, so perhaps I can suggest something a little closer to home. I hear that Channel 4 might be commissioning another season of “Make Me Prime Minister”. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) fancies his chances on “A Place in the Sun”. The whole Government really ought to get themselves on to something that they are actually good at; I understand that applications for “Pointless” have now opened.

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House to wake up the Environment Secretary and warn her that she had just three days left to set the targets on air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency. Unfortunately, when the Leader of the House did not manage to wake her up and she hit the snooze button, she missed the deadline. Is it too much to ask that Cabinet Ministers actually do the job that they are paid to do? When will the Leader of the House get the Secretary of State to meet those legally required targets?

The measures in the Energy Bill are essential for reaching net zero. I understand that much of that Bill has been consulted on and agreed, so why is there more delay? Last week, the COP26 President lost his place at the Cabinet table, and the Prime Minister has finally given in on the hokey-cokey COP27 saga and is grudgingly popping over briefly. Labour is serious about green economic growth, energy security, bringing down people’s bills and winning the race to net zero. We have a plan for all that, but the Tories clearly do not. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether they are planning to drop the Energy Bill—yes or no?

I have raised concerns about the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip ripping off taxpayers by making them pick up the bill for his legal advice in relation to the Privileges Committee’s investigation into him. The Cabinet Office said that it is okay because he was acting as Prime Minister. No—he is being investigated as an ordinary Member of Parliament by a parliamentary Committee for possibly misleading Parliament. Does the Leader of the House think that the former Prime Minister should pay back the £129,700 of taxpayers’ money?

I was surprised to see Scottish National party Members claiming that yesterday’s 38-nil vote on their motion gave them a mandate for a referendum on independence. Even the Prime Minister got more votes than that—just. The recent instalment of the Scottish Government independence papers has been slammed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies as even worse than the Tories’ mini-Budget. Perhaps the SNP ought to focus on sorting out its spiralling A&E waiting times and its struggling-to-function transport network, instead of pursuing its obsession with a referendum. That word did not even appear in the motion.

This morning, we expect the biggest interest rate rise in decades. Under the Tories, we have rising mortgages, rising rents, supermarket prices up by 17% and the price of a basic bowl of pasta up by a fifth, yet the Government still refuse to bring in Labour’s windfall tax on oil and gas giants, despite energy profits doubling. No one voted for this Prime Minister; he has no mandate. Tories are on the side of the richest 1%; Labour is on the side of working people, pensioners and communities. So it is not just the former Health Secretary who ought to be screaming, “I’m a Tory...Get Me Out of Here!” It is time that the public had the chance to vote the rest of them out. When will the Government give the country the choice between their failing trickle-down economics of the past and a fresh start and a bright future with a Labour Government?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The Chartists were right: democracy is very important, which is why this Government will implement the manifesto on which we stood in 2019, for which we received an overwhelming mandate from the British people.

I send my good wishes and, I hope, those of everyone in this House to our sportsmen and women for their upcoming matches: the men’s cricket team, the rugby league team—I know you are interested in rugby league, Mr Speaker—and especially the England women’s rugby team, who have a semi-final coming up.

The hon. Lady mentions the latest adventures of the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock). When I heard that a colleague was volunteering to be squeezed into small spaces with slippery creatures, that they would have to swallow unpalatable things to achieve their goals, and that their credibility and dignity were in jeopardy, I assumed that people were talking about a Member on the Opposition Front Bench, not the right hon. Member for West Suffolk.

The hon. Lady kindly reminisces about my time on “Splash!”. Hon. Members may find it hard to believe, given that the elegance of my performance was compared at the time to that of a paving slab being pushed off a scaffold, but I did actually have training. None of my time was spent away from this House. I have helped to save the Hilsea lido, which is currently being restored to its 1930s glory with help from the levelling-up fund.

The hon. Lady refers to policies and delay—high praise indeed from an Opposition who have no plan and no clue about any topic we might care to name. This is controversial stuff: Secretaries of State are going to be allowed to express their views on their departmental policy area. I know; it is radical stuff. Major investment decisions will be reflected on and discussed across Whitehall. In these volatile economic times, people will be thinking about how they can get the most for taxpayers for their money, but we are conscious that decisions on investment will need to be made and that decisions are needed to reassure people on fixed incomes in particular. Those decisions need to be the right ones: that is grown-up, joined-up, stepped-up government. I remind the Opposition that it took a mere two years for the Leader of the Opposition to ditch all his pledges—not so much a bonfire of the policies, more a puff of smoke.

The hon. Lady mentions the conference of the parties. I thank her for that, because it affords me and all Members of this House the opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the COP26 President, who has done a tremendous job. The UK should be proud of our record in the area: we are the first major economy to commit to a legally binding target of achieving net zero by 2030.

On the matter of legal advice, it is standard practice that Ministers would have legal advice under those circumstances.

I agree with what the hon. Lady says about our friends in the Scottish National party. One of the great joys of my job and hers is explaining our procedures and practices to people outside this place. SNP Members chose not to use their Opposition day debate to talk about health, education, care, opportunity, social mobility, business, farming or anything else related to the Scottish people. There were no surprises in the topic that they chose or in how they squandered their precious time on the Floor of the House. Their motion is not a mandate; it was not even a binding motion. What was surprising was that not all the SNP voted for it, but there we go.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not mention cost of living issues or the fact that this week we are celebrating the welcome £150 core council tax rebate, the second instalment of the £400 energy bills support scheme and the launch of the energy price guarantee in Northern Ireland. Nor did she have any word of sympathy for the travelling public, who will face further strike action on the railways. We will always speak up for working people and the travelling public. I still live in hope that the Opposition might support our legislation.

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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The business for the week commencing 31 October will include:

Monday 31 October—Remaining stages of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.

Tuesday 1 November—Second Reading of the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 2 November—Opposition day (6th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the Scottish National party. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 3 November—Debate on a motion on the independent review of Smokefree 2030 policies, followed by a general debate on the Government’s White Paper “A Fairer Private Rented Sector”. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 4 November—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 November includes:

Monday 7 November—Second Reading of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords].

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. May I congratulate her on being reappointed? There were suggestions that it may not have been the job she was hoping for but we both know that, as Parliament’s representative in Government and the Government’s representative in Parliament, she has an incredibly important role. I know that she takes her responsibilities seriously, and I look forward to continued work with her to ensure that Members can properly hold the Government to account. In that vein, I repeat my regular plea, on behalf of our constituents, for prompt responses from Ministers to MPs.

The Prime Minister’s promise to restore “integrity” and “accountability” lasted barely a few hours. The Home Secretary was reappointed to the job from which she was sacked just six days earlier for breaching the ministerial code and putting our national security at risk. We now hear that there were

“multiple breaches of the ministerial code”,

which even involved “documents relating to cybersecurity”. The first duty of any Government is to keep this country safe. This is exceptionally serious. Does the Leader of the House agree that there must be an urgent investigation?

The Home Secretary said she that “rapidly reported” her mistake

“on official channels, and informed the Cabinet Secretary”,

but we now hear that the evidence was put to her rather than the other way round. Despite that, the Prime Minister said yesterday at the Dispatch Box that the Home Secretary

“raised the matter and…accepted her mistake.”—[Official Report, 26 October 2022; Vol. 721, c. 289.]

This is really important. The shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) has raised two points of order, asked two urgent questions and sent a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, but we still have no clarity. It is imperative that the Prime Minister sets out a clear timeline of who reported what to whom and when. If he has misled the House on this serious national security matter, will he come to the Chamber, apologise and correct the record?

This is yet another example of why a Government ethics adviser is so badly needed. After months of calling for one, I welcomed yesterday’s announcement that an appointment would be “done shortly”, but it is obvious that one is needed urgently. Can the Leader of the House give us a timeframe?

The new Prime Minister claims a mandate from the 2019 general election, but that was three Prime Ministers and several national crises ago. Meanwhile, the Government are pulling legislation left, right and centre. Which sofa has all the Government’s missing legislation has fallen down the back of? Where is the Energy Bill? Where is the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill? Where is the Online Safety Bill, which was first mooted a decade ago? We have been waiting four years for it. Has the Prime Minister been forced to pull it to appease his new International Trade Secretary?

Since the Conservatives first announced their intention to regulate, seven other jurisdictions have introduced online safety laws. In that time, in the UK, online crime has exploded, child sexual abuse online has become rife and scams have proliferated. Every day that goes by without the Bill, this suffering continues. We hear it has been delayed and not pulled so, yet again, I offer Labour’s willingness to work with the Government to get this Bill over the line as soon as possible. Will the Government accept our offer, and can the Leader of the House tell us when the Bill is coming back?

The Government are dragging their feet on the climate and nature emergency. The Environment Act 2021 legally requires the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set long-term targets for air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction by 31 October, so she has three days left. Will the Leader of the House please wake up the new Environment Secretary from the nightmare of the past few weeks and ask her to get on with the job?

We have a Prime Minister nobody elected and with no mandate, and he is letting down the British people. It is time the Government accepted that the British people deserve a choice between the failed Tory trickle-down economics of the past and a green, clean, sustainable future with a Labour Government.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her questions on the themes of democracy and integrity, which are both very important. I reassure her that it is not a disappointment to find myself here, in part because I very much enjoy my exchanges with her across the Dispatch Box. It was important that we tested the proposition of a contest, as we did to destruction, and I think that has been a good outcome.

The Conservative party has one member, one vote and, of course, the Leader of the Opposition tried to end that for Labour. He had to abandon his attempt to return to an electoral college amid accusations of gerrymandering and holding the membership in contempt. Of course, the Labour party has form on this, as it blocked an election when Parliament needed one and its leader campaigned to overturn the result of the European Union referendum, so I will take no lectures from Labour Members on honouring democracy.

On integrity, the ethics adviser is a matter for the Prime Minister, and he intends to bring that decision forward. It is a matter for him, but he has made that commitment. Opposition Members have made allegations about support for jobs. As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, there is support for jobs: he supported 163,000 kickstart jobs; he supported job-entry schemes, benefiting 177,000 unemployed people; and, of course, he paid the wages of 11 million people in this country to protect them and their jobs. I am proud of our record of getting nearly 4 million people back into work with the dignity of a pay packet.

The hon. Lady mentioned prompt responses, and I have met the Home Office permanent secretary. All Members can have a bespoke service in which they attend a surgery to go through their cases, or they can have the usual responses and written replies. Both those options are open. We hope all the backlogs will be cleared by the end of the year, and there are ongoing improvements. I hope hon. Members will have an improved service shortly.

The Online Safety Bill will be back in the House shortly. The Bill remains a priority for this Government. We need to ensure there is time for Members to consider amendments properly, which is why the Bill has not yet returned to the House. I will announce business in the usual way, and we are committed to that Bill.

One thing the hon. Lady did not mention is diversity. All Members of this House can be very proud that we have the first British Asian Prime Minister. He was sworn in this morning, which is why today’s business questions are at an unusual time. I am very proud that my party has had three women Prime Ministers and now the first British Asian Prime Minister. Obviously, many other great British institutions are also enabling talent to thrive. Labour has a little way to go. Even “Doctor Who” has a more successful track record on the diversity of its lead characters.

All other business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, but, Mr Deputy Speaker, where on earth do I start? Do we even still have a Prime Minister? This is the afternoon after the morning after the night before, with the Government seemingly falling to pieces before our eyes. As some of their own Back Benchers said yesterday, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. We had a Home Secretary resigning amid discussions of national security, a Government seemingly unable even to organise against our motion to ban fracking and forced clarifications in the early hours of the morning from Downing Street. That is all in a day’s work for this absolute disgrace of a Government party, who are simply unfit to govern. They are dragging this country’s reputation through the mud and the British people will never forgive them for it. British people are looking to the Government for answers on how they are going to pay their mortgage, rent or bills, which the Government sent sky high when they crashed the economy. Instead, people are getting chaos.

Parliament ought to be a model workplace, so will the Leader of the House confirm that the reports of bad behaviour in the Lobby or outside it last night will be investigated? Will she put on record that in her view there is no place for intimidation and bullying on the parliamentary estate? On the actual votes themselves, it has come to my attention that there was a discrepancy last night between the number of votes recorded in the No Lobby which was read out in the Chamber and the number later published on the voting lists. Is the Leader of the House aware of any of her party’s Members who perhaps did not want to vote against our motion but, to avoid controversy with their Whips, marched through the Lobby but did not scan their pass and therefore avoided the publication of their names? Will she also clarify whether yesterday’s vote was a confidence vote or not? Downing Street said it was, but then a No. 10 special adviser told the Minister for Climate, the right hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) to say it was not, which he duly did from that Dispatch Box, causing confusion on his own side. At half past one this morning, No. 10 suggested that it in fact was and then the Transport Secretary told Kay Burley a few hours ago that it was not. We know that the Prime Minister is infamous for her U-turns, but this is beyond a joke. If it was a vote of confidence, when will the Prime Minister be removing the Whip from her rebels?

I also notice that the Government have pulled our next Opposition day. I cannot think why, after yesterday, they might do that. Are they punishing us for their chaos and incompetence last night? Is the Leader of the House aware of Standing Order No. 14, which allocates 17 days to the leader of the official Opposition party? The Government are falling behind on this, so will they be giving us an Opposition day on the week commencing 7 November?

I am glad that the Leader of the House actually has some business to announce, given the Government’s complete inability to function. As well as chaos, we have a raft of dropped legislation, broken promises and unmet manifesto commitments. She cannot blame the British people for asking, “What’s the point of this Government?” She should not just take it from me, as the former Home Secretary mentioned the very thing in her resignation letter, when she raised concerns about the Government breaking key pledges to voters and failing to honour their manifesto commitments. Someone had their Weetabix, or was it tofu, for breakfast yesterday. Perhaps the Leader of the House can provide some clarity on what further broken promises the former Home Secretary was referring to. Can I also ask that the Government send Ministers to answer urgent questions who can actually provide answers? Many important questions on national security went unanswered this morning in the urgent question relating to the sacking—sorry, resignation, was it?—of the Home Secretary.

Out of touch, out of ideas, unable to govern. They are too busy trying to get through the Tory psychodrama, which is worsening hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute—it is happening in front of my very eyes—to focus on the serious issues facing all our constituents: not just mine, but theirs too. They have crashed the economy and left working people to pick up the bill, and now they are falling apart. This is a Tory crisis made in Downing Street. They are letting everyone down. The Prime Minister has clearly lost the confidence of her party, and her party has lost the confidence of the country. It is time for a general election so that a Labour Government can deliver a fresh start for the British people.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by thanking Mr Speaker for his statement at the start of business? I wholeheartedly endorse it.

We have ways of organising ourselves in a party system in this place, but ultimately we are all individuals making judgments about what is in the best interests of the country and our constituents. Sometimes, votes are about more than the issue that has been debated. Last night’s Labour motion was an attempt to seize control of proceedings. We all know that that was done deliberately to enable campaigns today about Members’ views on fracking and to spark the usual social media outrage; I know that Twitter has taken down some accounts today. This is standard operating procedure by Labour. Many Conservative Members have worked hard to ensure that fracking is rightly not imposed on their community, and it is by their efforts that fracking is not happening in their community. It is the Government’s policy to allow fracking where there is consent.

If we want to take the temperature down in this place, I suggest that we take the temperature down outside of this place too. I am happy to say on the record that I am against bullying both in Parliament and outside it. I hope that is the view of all Members of this House.

The country needs stability and calm. I am glad to say that that is the effect the Chancellor is having—market functioning has improved, borrowing costs have been lowered, and the pound is strengthening—but there is more to do. Despite the very volatile global economic conditions, the economy remains resilient. Unemployment is at its lowest level for nearly 50 years and the UK is forecast to have the fastest growth in the G7 this year.

Elsewhere, good work is going on in Government, in contrast to the picture painted by the shadow Leader of the House. Just this week, the Lord Chancellor opened up the legal aid system to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to get access to free legal aid and representation; we have had huge wins in the Department for International Trade, with a £100 million trade win for the drinks industry, and huge infrastructure project wins; we have announced nearly £800 million to support research centres with breakthrough new treatments and £180 million to support children’s development in their early years, and the Department for Work and Pensions has launched a new service to help businesses support members of their workforce who have a disability or become sick. Earlier this week, we passed the Energy Prices Bill, removing the worry for households and businesses about their energy costs, and we are introducing the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill to provide protection for the travelling public who rely on rail services to get to work or go about their daily lives. I hope that the Labour party will back us and fed-up commuters, and protect those services.

Opposition Members have been running around all week saying, “In office but not in power.” I think that is probably a more accurate description of Labour’s relationship with its trade union paymasters. We are getting on with the job, and further business will be announced in the usual way.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 13th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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May I start by associating myself with the many remembrances and tributes that have been paid to our dearly missed late colleague, Sir David Amess? Mr Speaker, I hope you will allow me to say that of the many organisations Sir David supported, perhaps the best known is the Music Man Project. Next week will see the first ever live performance of its new Christmas single, the first record it has ever produced. In its efforts, it is being supported by a little-known backing group called the Royal Marines Band. I hope all Members will buy a copy of the single and support this amazing cause.

The business for the week commencing 17 October will include:

Monday 17 October—Subject to the House agreeing a motion on today’s Order Paper, the House will sit from 2 pm in order for any Members who wish to take the oath or make the affirmation to do so. Oral questions will then take place in the usual way from 2.30 pm, followed by consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Energy Prices Bill.

Tuesday 18 October—Remaining stages of the Public Order Bill, followed by consideration of a motion relating to the Committee on Standards reports into the code of conduct and its recommendation relating to appeals and a procedural protocol in the House’s conduct system.

Wednesday 19 October—Opposition day (5th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 20 October—Debate on a motion on NHS dentistry, followed by a general debate on investing in the future of motor neurone disease. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 21 October—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 24 October includes:

Monday 24 October—Consideration of out-of-turn supplementary estimates relating to HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, followed by proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Adjustments) Bill, followed by consideration of a resolution relating to stamp duty land tax (reduction), followed by all stages of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Reduction) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and I join her and Members across the House in their tributes to our lost friend, David Amess, who will be very much in our thoughts in the coming days.

I am glad that yesterday’s motion on proxy voting seems to have inspired the right hon. Lady to press ahead with other important matters of House business, such as the Standards Committee recommendations on the Members’ code of conduct, which I have been calling on the Government to introduce for months—and now here it is. But, as with everything from this Government, it is half-baked. It appears that they are planning to bring in only the bits on appeals. Why? Will she tell us which of the other recommendations to raise standards for MPs she does not like? Is it the one about banning MPs from doing paid consultancy work? We know the reputational damage that has caused to Parliament recently. Is it the one about increasing the transparency of Members’ interests? Or are they just planning to shelve these measures altogether? Have they simply given up on standards in public life?

Despite the hard work of civil servants, Members continue to raise with me the long delays and inadequate responses that they experience when making representations to the Home Office on our constituents’ behalf. The Department said that it aims to answer all queries by the end of February 2023 and to return to its 20-day service standard by March. That is not good enough. It is important that Ministers provide MPs with the timely, quality responses that we are entitled to and that our constituents deserve. I have written to the Leader of the House on that issue and I look forward to receiving a response addressing my concerns, including the impact on our staff workload and our constituents’ lives. Will she talk to the Home Secretary about the importance of providing responses to MPs?

It is a pleasure to be back at business questions after party conference season. I hope that the right hon. Lady was watching the Labour conference as closely as I was keeping an eye on hers. It looks like she had a great time, all things considered. It is amazing what can get you cheers and applause at a Tory fringe event these days. I think I saw the right hon. Lady saying, “Our policies are great but our comms are sh—shocking”; let us go with that to keep it parliamentary. On comms, I agree, but people across the country know that her Government’s policies are sh—shocking too; I might as well make it work twice. Government Ministers know that themselves or they would not keep U-turning on them. It has been one policy for the pre-record and another for the time it is broadcast.

If only the Government had listened to Labour, because just before the Chancellor’s mini-Budget turned into a major disaster, I asked the Leader of the House whether Members could receive economic briefing papers and an independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecast, and have a proper chance to scrutinise the Chancellor’s tax cuts for the richest 1%. Labour does not ask for those things just for the sake of it; we are His Majesty’s loyal Opposition and it is our job to hold the Government to account on behalf of the people we all serve. It is the role of the House to examine and scrutinise the work of Government.

As the House’s representative in Government, has the right hon. Lady made that point to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor? Have the Government learned? Will they publish the OBR document as soon as they get it? Can the Leader of the House guarantee that her Government will never again seek to swerve scrutiny in such a catastrophic way that working people are left to pick up the Government’s very expensive bill?

“Funereal” and “unspeakably bleak”—just some of last night’s savage stream of consciousness flowing from the 1922 Committee of Tory Back Benchers. Oh dear, oh dear. The country’s economic outlook is almost as grim as the faces on the Government Benches during Prime Minister’s questions. The Leader of the House could not even muster a nod for her Prime Minister, and why would she? They have crashed the economy, sent mortgages and prices sky-high and damaged the UK’s reputation on the world stage, and we are all left paying the price. This is a Tory crisis made in Downing Street. The Government must end this “roll the dice” economics, reverse their Budget and abandon their failed trickle-down approach, because only Labour—the party of sound money—will get this country back on track and deliver a fresh start for the British people.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me address the hon. Lady’s comments about my facial expressions: my resting face is that of a bulldog chewing a wasp, and people should not read too much into that.

Let me address the hon. Lady’s questions. The motion next week will focus on appeals, but I will also update the House about other measures. It is not that we are not doing them; it is just that we particularly want to press ahead with the appeals issue. A lot of my work has focused on ensuring that we can do something swiftly about the declarations issue. I have already spoken to the Chair of the Standards Committee about it, and we are bringing other things forward, including a motion on Tuesday’s Order Paper about the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

I completely agree with the hon. Lady about questions, and particularly about the issues at the Home Office. I have already raised the matter with the Home Secretary; on receiving her letter, I summoned the permanent secretary to come and see me to discuss the matter in detail. I know that it is a concern for many Members of the House. We need to ensure that the Home Office can meet demand.

I am guilty as charged: I was playing to the crowd as I was addressing a room full of communications professionals. That was my profession in a former life, and they always get the blame for things, even when it is not their fault.

With regard to the other issues that the hon. Lady raises, our prime concern in this Government is to deliver for the people of this country. That means delivering the Prime Minister’s plan of modernising our economy, tackling people’s priorities on the cost of living, ensuring that they can get access to healthcare and supporting business. We are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly the war in Ukraine, which is not just a war against the people of Ukraine but an economic war against every hospital, every school, every business and every household in this country. We are determined to win that war.

With regard to our record—against a backdrop of having no money left when we came into office, I remind Opposition Members—we are the party that has held down fuel duty, has introduced a living wage and has created a modern welfare system that saw millions through the pandemic. Labour’s legacy systems would have collapsed. In this Parliament, we are investing £4 billion in skills. We have introduced T-levels. We have doubled free childcare. We introduced the triple lock. Millions of households will be getting direct payments to protect the most vulnerable this winter. We have modernised the universal credit taper rate and provided £1,400, on average, to help households to combat rising energy prices. We have made the largest cash investment in affordable housing for a decade. We introduced the Tenant Fees Act 2019. Those are all things that protect vulnerable people.

Our record is nearly 4 million people back in work since 2010, unemployment halved, 2 million more women in work and 1 million more disabled people in work. [Hon. Members: “More!”] I shall not indulge myself any longer, but that is the Conservatives’ record. It is Labour and those on the Opposition Benches who are anti-more money in your pocket, anti-better public services and anti-protecting the most vulnerable. It is the anti-growth coalition whose—[Interruption.]

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 22nd September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Madam Deputy Speaker, before I give the business, I hope you will permit me to place on the record my admiration and thanks for all those who enabled the mourning of Her late Majesty to be so exquisite, including the general public. It was done so well and with much love. We did her proud.

Subject to the House’s agreement of the motion on today’s order paper, the business for Friday 23 September will be:

Friday 23 September—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement on the Government’s plans for growth. Subject to the House’s agreement, the House will then rise for the conference recess and return on Tuesday 11 October.

The business for the week commencing 10 October will include:

Tuesday 11 October—Consideration of an allocation of time motion followed by all stages of the Health and Social Care Levy (Repeal) Bill.

Wednesday 12 October—Second Reading of the Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords], followed by a motion relating to the Procedure Committee’s recommendations on proxy voting.

Thursday 13 October—Second Reading of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.

Friday 14 October—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 17 October will include:

Monday 17 October—Remaining Stages of the Public Order Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I thank the Leader of the House for giving the forthcoming business. I join her in commending the House, Members’ staff and Members across the House for working so hard, both on the lying- in-state and on the tributes to the late Queen. I agree that we did Her late Majesty proud. It was an honour to close the tributes with the right hon. Lady.

May I also commend the right hon. Lady for taking up her role as Lord President of the Council so impeccably and so swiftly? She became the first woman to proclaim a new monarch, and she did so with great poise.

I welcomed the Leader of the House’s response to my question two weeks ago about the appointment of a new Government ethics adviser. She said then that the Prime Minister would get around to it “swiftly”—well, at least she is planning to appoint one. The Government have been missing an ethics adviser for months now, so where is the urgency? Can the Leader of the House tell us exactly where the appointment ranks on the Prime Minister’s to-do list?

An ethics adviser could have offered guidance to the Cabinet Office, which seems to think it appropriate to assist the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) by commissioning legal advice on his behalf. Does the Leader of the House think that what looks like interference in the Privileges Committee inquiry was appropriate? Does she expect the right hon. Gentleman to repay any money that was spent by taxpayers?

On legislation, I do not see in the business statement any listing for legislation on the energy bills crisis, and there does not yet seem to be a Bill. Will there be legislation, when will we see it, and when will we debate and vote on it?

On legislation that the Government seem to be planning to bin in their bonfire of Bills, the Prime Minster indicated that the Bill of Rights Bill and the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will be scrapped, and apparently the Business Secretary has told officials to stop work on the Energy Bill. Can the Leader of the House clarify that by confirming whether the Government plan to drop those Bills?

While we are on broken manifesto promises, we are now told that there is no chance of a trade deal with the US any time soon, despite the fact that it was a No. 1 priority in 2019, that it was then given a deadline of mid-2021, and that there was, apparently, significant progress last summer. I wonder who was the Trade Secretary then, and who was the Foreign Secretary who seems to have messed this up so badly.

I also wish to ask about the swerving of scrutiny. The Business Secretary yesterday announced the fuel bill relief scheme before coming to the House—as previous Prime Ministers and Ministers did—which Mr Speaker had specifically asked the new Prime Minister not to do. Instead of voluntarily providing a ministerial statement, the Business Secretary had to be dragged to Parliament to face questions. Could the Leader of the House have a word with him, please?

The Leader of the House also announced that the Chancellor will make a statement tomorrow—a so-called “mini Budget”—yet it looks as though Members will have only a few hours to scrutinise it, and there are no accompanying briefings from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Just changing the name does not change what the statement is or the need for those economic briefings. What are the Government seeking to hide? Can the Leader of the House tell us why we are getting only half a day, and will any economic forecasts be made tomorrow?

At the end of the day, politics is about choices. This Prime Minister is choosing lifting the cap on investment bankers’ bonuses over putting money back into working people’s pockets. By lifting the ban on fracking, she is choosing to back the fossil fuel lobby over investing in renewable energy. She is choosing to make the British people pay for her energy policy with debt piling up into the future. Labour’s plan to make sure people do not have to pay a penny more this winter would have been funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ windfall profits. When it comes to choices, the Tories are choosing to side with bankers and oil and gas giants, while Labour is choosing to side with everybody else.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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I start by thanking the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. It was a privilege to preside over the Accession Council.

The Government have set out clearly their immediate priorities. The Prime Minister will get to the matter of an ethics adviser, but her priorities, as she has stated, have been ensuring that people in this country can see a doctor and a dentist. Members will not have to wait very long to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health on that matter. Our priority is also about getting growth back into our economy and building a modern economy through supply-side reform—again, the House will not have long to wait to hear about that plan directly from the Chancellor and to question him on the legislative programme that will follow—and dealing with the cost of living issues, which are of major concern to households and businesses. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy gave us his time this morning to talk through his proposals.

Those are the Government’s priorities, and we are acting on them. It was right that we observed a period of mourning for Her late Majesty. This week is the first opportunity we have had to bring these measures forward and present them to the House, and we are doing so. Those are the priorities of the Prime Minister and her Government.

The shadow Leader of the House raised the question of a trade deal with the United States. There is good news and there is bad news. We wanted a tariff arrangement faster than the US was prepared to move, but we will continue to press it on that. The Opposition can help us in that by outlining to their friends in the Democratic party why this is a good idea for both the UK and the US. We have not been idle in the meantime. She will know that we have been pursuing state-level arrangements on removing non-tariff barriers to trade. We have signed two, with a further 25 states interested, and the first eight that we sign will be equivalent to 20% of the US economy. That is the bad news. The good news is that at long last the Labour party supports a trade deal with the United States, and I am delighted to hear that.

Regarding the handling of business, it is incredibly important that the House hears things first. We want to ensure that the House has the time it needs both to question Ministers in statements and to scrutinise legislation. A wise man once said:

“It is a fundamental constitutional right that this House should be told things first”—[Official Report, 28 October 2021; Vol. 702, c. 407.]

That was the former Leader of the House, who is now the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and I will hold him to it.

We have some major challenges facing this country because of the war in Ukraine and an incredibly volatile economy. I do hope we can take the mood of unity and co-operation that has been the flavour of this House in recent days and apply it to these problems together, for the benefit of all the people we serve.

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Thursday 8th September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I paid tribute to my predecessor yesterday but, before I announce the business, I would like to place on record my sadness and my thanks for the life and service of Nick Munting MBE, who gave this House 35 years’ service.

The business for the week commencing 12 September will include:

Monday 12 September—Second Reading of the Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 13 September—Remaining stages of the Public Order Bill.

Wednesday 14 September—Remaining stages of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, followed by a motion relating to the Procedure Committee’s first report of 2022-23 on proxy voting and the presence of babies in the Chamber and Westminster Hall.

Thursday 15 September—Debate on a motion on NHS dentistry, followed by a general debate on the national food strategy and food security. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 16 September—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 19 September includes:

Monday 19 September—Remaining stages of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and I join her tribute to the former member of staff.

It is a pleasure to welcome the Leader of the House. As she dives into her new job, I hope it is not too cheesy to wish her all the best in making a splash. I also thank the right hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) for his service. The Leader of the House’s brief is unique in that it requires cross-party co-operation on a number of matters, and I look forward to working with the Leader of the House, as I looked forward to working with her predecessor.

The well-respected former Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell, said, “it is always best to look at the reasons why your predecessor fell and fix them.” I have been calling for the Government to bring forward the Standards Committee’s recommendations on strengthening the code of conduct for MPs for months. It is incredibly disappointing to see that it is missing from the business again. Will the Leader of the House please pass on Lord O’Donnell’s wise words to the Prime Minister and bring forward those recommendations urgently?

I pay tribute to my good and hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and his Committee for their excellent work, which must not go to waste. Labour has long called for transparency on Members’ interests and for a ban on paid consultancy work. Where Labour wants to act, the Tories sit on their hands. Labour would go even further by establishing an integrity and ethics commission that would sanction Ministers who breach the rules, but the Prime Minister has refused to say whether she will even appoint a new ethics adviser after the last two resigned in despair. There is clearly a need for stronger enforcement of the rules across Parliament and across Government. Will the Leader of the House tell me when the much-needed new ethics adviser will be announced?

The Government’s legislative agenda is in disarray. Without going all Craig David, let us look at their first few days. On Monday, the data Bill was pulled. It fell well short on ambition, but it was supposed to unlock growth and business opportunities. Does the new Culture Secretary support the Bill? If so, when will it be rescheduled? Or are the Government planning to drop it completely? We need clarity on which Bills from the Queen’s Speech of just four months ago the Government will be proceeding with. Are they dropping any other legislation that we should know about? If they are, may I suggest that the Leader of the House uses the space for the Public Advocate (No. 2) Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), which would give real protection and succour to victims of future public disasters and their families? It would be a lasting legacy for the Hillsborough families, who have suffered so much.

On Tuesday, the scrutiny session on the National Security Bill was cancelled when the latest Minister—[Interruption.] Well, I don’t know what happened. There have been four Ministers over the course of that Bill. Why could the Government not get anyone to turn up? Our Labour Back Benchers did. The zombie Government continue. Can the Leader of the House give us assurances that business on national security, or indeed anything else, will not be delayed again because Ministers cannot be bothered to turn up?

On Wednesday, whatever Craig David was up to, the Leader of the House announced that the Prime Minister would swerve scrutiny by announcing policy today in a general debate rather than making herself properly accountable by giving a ministerial statement. I see instead that there is to be a written ministerial statement, but it has not yet been published. Members cannot be expected to properly scrutinise significant policy when we have not seen it. When will it be published? Either way, this is not the same as bringing forward a policy, legislation and an implementation plan, and there is nothing in the Leader of the House’s statement. The energy price cap increases in less than a month, and without the legislation families will suffer. It is days away that the bills go up, so when are we going to do this?

So, the Government dropped a Bill on Monday, did not turn up on Tuesday, did something else on Wednesday and here they are planless on Thursday. Labour has been calling for action on energy bills for months. We could have passed legislation to freeze the energy price cap by now. Throughout the leadership campaign the Prime Minister consistently said she is against windfall taxes. What is it about this former Shell employee, the new Prime Minister, that means she is so determined to protect the £170 billion of excess oil and gas profits? She must now choose whose side she is on. Labour’s plan, backed by the country, is fully funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. The Prime Minister is making working people pay. We have a new Prime Minister but the same story. Only Labour can tackle the Tory cost of living crisis, get money back into people’s pockets and deliver a fresh start for Britain.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her kind and witty remarks on my appointment, although I have to disappoint her, because I am afraid there is nothing wet about me.

I am deeply honoured to have this role at a time when we have to restore trust in this place and in our politics, and that trust has to be earned through our conduct and our care, but also our policies. That is why—in answer to the hon. Lady’s question about energy costs—this Prime Minister believes in keeping our promises and delivering certainty for both households and people, and businesses and investors in this country.

I was buoyed up to hear the hon. Lady want to talk about the Prime Minister’s predecessor. I am taking that as an encouraging sign that she thinks the current Prime Minister is rather good. However, the hon. Lady does raise important issues about the code of conduct and the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser. I have asked for an early meeting with the Chairman of the Standards Committee—

Business of the House

Debate between Penny Mordaunt and Thangam Debbonaire
Wednesday 7th September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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I am getting nods from the Deputy Leader of the House—quite right. We agree on this, so will the Leader of the House remind the Prime Minister of what Mr Speaker said to her today?

Finally, Labour has been calling on the Government for action on energy bills for months. I asked for a recall in August so that we could pass legislation as soon as possible, adopting Labour’s plan to freeze the energy price cap and ensure the burden of paying for it fell on the big oil and gas companies through a windfall tax. The Prime Minister ruled that out this morning. Why is she asking working people to pay the price instead?

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

May I start by thanking the hon. Lady for her very kind remarks about my predecessor? It is absolutely right that this House has time to debate these critical issues. Many colleagues will have been speaking to constituency businesses, as well as ordinary constituents, to understand the particular issues they are facing and what they think the solutions should be to the extreme problems the country is facing.

I have, as the hon. Lady would expect, already raised the matter of getting information in a timely way for Members with the lead Department, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is incredibly important that Members are able to scrutinise the solutions in a timely way, as well as, I hope, raise concerns and matters their constituents have asked to be pressed to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. That I have carried out and I hope to provide further assurance on that as we continue.

The hon. Lady raises the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensuring that things are brought to this House. In Prime Minister’s questions just a short while ago, I think she reiterated her determination to do that. I would also say that although the House has not been sitting across the summer, Ministers have not been idle. I pay tribute in particular to the former Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), working with colleagues to ensure that whichever candidate won the leadership contest would have up to date information, given the volatility of the economy at the moment, to be able to make decisions. In the course of my duties, I will always do my best to ensure information is given to this House in the correct manner.