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Business of the House

Speakers in this debate:

  1. Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
  2. The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Lidington)
  3. Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
  4. Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
  5. Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con)
  6. Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab)
  7. Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
  8. Several hon. Members rose—
  9. Mr Speaker
  10. Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
  11. Sir Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con)
  12. Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
  13. Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)
  14. Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
  15. Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
  16. Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab)
  17. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
  18. Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP)
  19. Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
  20. Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)
  21. Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
  22. Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab)
  23. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
  24. Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab)
  25. Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
  26. Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
  27. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
  28. Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)
  29. George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP)
  30. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
  31. Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
  32. Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
  33. Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
  34. Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP)
  35. Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
  36. Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
  37. Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)
  38. Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
  39. Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)
  40. Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
  41. Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

  1. Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)

    Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

  2. The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Lidington)

    Before I answer the hon. Lady’s question, I associate myself with your congratulations, Mr Speaker, to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn).

    The business for the week commencing 20 February will be as follows:

    Read more

    Monday 20 February—Remaining stages of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.

    Tuesday 21 February—Remaining stages of the Criminal Finances Bill followed by motions relating to the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2017 and the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2017.

    Wednesday 22 February—Motions relating to the police grant and local government finance reports.

    Thursday 23 February—Opposition day (un-allotted half day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Democratic Unionist Party followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

    Friday 24 February—Private Members’ Bills.

    The provisional business for the week commencing 27 February will include:

    Monday 27 February—Estimates day (1st allotted day). Subject to be confirmed by the Liaison Committee.

    I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 23 and 27 February will be as follows:

    Thursday 23 February—Debate on publicly accessible amenities for disabled people followed by a debate on the second report from the Transport Committee on road traffic law enforcement.

    Monday 27 February—Debate on an e-petition relating to attacks on NHS medical staff.

  3. Valerie Vaz

    I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. May I add my birthday wishes to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who is my predecessor? I bought his book, and I found it very handy when I first came into the House.

    Will there be business questions on Thursday 20 July, or will that be allocated as a pre-recess adjournment day? Can the Leader of the House tell us whether there will be any progress on a debate in Government time on restoration and renewal? In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), I note that the Leader of the House has allocated an Opposition day on 23 February. Is that going to be a regular occurrence, and will he ensure that the debates that have been listed by the Backbench Business Committee also have a day allocated to them?

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    It was 25 years ago this week that the Maastricht treaty was signed. This week, in responding to and respecting the referendum, we have voted to trigger article 50 and leave the EU. In July, the Prime Minister said, “Brexit means Brexit”. The Opposition asked, “What does that mean?” The Opposition asked, “Do you have a plan and a White Paper?” Seven months later, we had a speech at Lancaster House, and eight months later we have a White Paper—which is the speech, with a few graphs. On page 9, in paragraph 1.4, the White Paper states that the Government

    “will bring forward a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill”.

    Will that be a further White Paper and, if so, when will it be published? Could the Leader of the House ensure that it is not published on the day of the Queen’s Speech, whenever that is?

    Businesses wanted to stay in the single market, and there is the prospect of losing 32,000 jobs in financial services. Could we have a statement on what the Government will do to protect those jobs and secure London’s place as the No. 1 financial centre, as ranked by the global financial centres index? The EU budget is mentioned only twice in the White Paper, both times in section 8.51, which consists of 83 words. Will the Government be revealing more words and, more importantly, figures on the budget in a statement?

    Could we have a definition of “frictionless” negotiations? The word appears 12 times in the White Paper. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the concession made on Tuesday by the Minister on a vote before the final deal was an example of frictionless negotiations—that is to say, meaningless and not to be trusted?

    <END OF TURN AY>

    Labour Members tabled amendments to put the case for those who voted to remain and for the country, but it was a sad day when the Government voted down all the amendments so that the Prime Minister could say that the Bill was unamended. The Prime Minister delivered for her party, but not for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

    The Government will want to take note, in negotiations, that the Serious Fraud Office has found that Rolls-Royce admitted it used multimillion pound bribes to secure export orders and received financial support from the Government’s credit agency in 1991, when it paid a $2 million bribe to win a contract with Indonesia. There is a review, so may we have a statement on what safeguards there will be to ensure that, as the Government negotiate trade deals around the world in 730 days’ time, there will not be a repeat of this?

    At Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister three times whether a special deal was offered to Surrey for social care. The Prime Minister was dismissive, and did not answer the question. If there is no special deal for Surrey, why did the Prime Minister simply not confirm that? I and other hon. Members want a memorandum of understanding to secure our libraries and social care, so may we have a statement on Surrey-gate and the discussions Nick and Dave had about securing an MOU?

    Turning to House matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) has had his Child Poverty in the UK (Target for Reduction) Bill talked out yet again. I have previously raised the issue of Bills being talked out, which makes Parliament look petty. How can we move forward on the Procedure Committee recommendation about a time limit under Standing Order No. 47, given that the Government response of 16 January says that they will not accept that? How can we progress this matter and break this impasse? Many hard-working Members who have worked hard on their Bills want to see them get through.

    May we have a debate on early-day motion 890, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), which has been signed by 201 Members, including Front Benchers?

    [That this House deplores recent actions taken by US President Donald J Trump, including his Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees, and notably his comments on torture and women; notes the historical significance and honour that comes with an invitation to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster; and calls on the Speaker, Lord Speaker, Black Rod and Serjeant at Arms to withhold permission from the Government for an address to be made in Westminster Hall, or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, by President Trump.]

    When a person refers to a senator, Elizabeth Warren, as Pocahontas and she is then silenced by her party; when a person repeats the cry “Lock her up” of a candidate when no offence has been committed; when a person suggests women should be grabbed in certain places without their consent; when a person has consistently questioned the birthplace of a president, President Obama; when a person wants “America first”, but made his business investments anywhere but America; when a person has a key adviser who ran an alt-right website and whose appointment was welcomed by the Ku Klux Klan; and when a person forgets there were native Americans or first nations before he arrived in the US, then I—born in Aden, Yemen, of Goan Indian heritage, who may or may not be directly affected by the travel ban—and others welcome the support given to us and to the reputation of Parliament. Will the Leader of the House therefore confirm that the Government will not support any attempts to act on the letter to the Prime Minister about comments made in a point of order in this Chamber? Will he also confirm that the House of Lords will not be threatened with abolition when dealing with article 50 legislation?

    Sixty-five years ago on Monday, Her Majesty ascended the throne, and this House congratulates her on that sapphire milestone. May I ask the Leader of the House for clarification: who issues an invitation for a state visit, can the Prime Minister do it without consulting anyone and who did she consult in this case, or is this a case of frictionless negotiation—“You give me a trade deal in exchange for a state visit”? We should be told.

  4. Mr Lidington

    May I first associate myself wholeheartedly with the hon. Lady’s words about Her Majesty’s sapphire jubilee? At the same time, it is important for us to be conscious that the anniversary is inevitably a time for reflection, for Her Majesty in particular, as her accession was obviously made possible by the death of a much-loved father. I think everyone in the House, whatever views they have about our constitutional arrangements, will want to share in the tributes to Her Majesty for her selfless service to the United Kingdom over all those years.

    The arrangements for state visits have not changed under this Government. They are exactly the same now as they were under Prime Ministers Blair and Brown.

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    <END OF TURN AZ>

    On the subject of restoration and renewal, I am not in a position to announce a specific date, but I can tell the hon. Lady that the Government’s intention is that there should be debate in Government time before the Easter recess.

    On the hon. Lady’s question about the arrangements for business, and particularly Back-Bench business on Thursday 23 February, I am conscious that I owe something of an apology to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee. It is always difficult to accommodate the various pressures on time. A date that had been planned for an Opposition half-day was lost as a result of the Supreme Court judgment and the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which we debated earlier this week. The Government have therefore agreed that we will protect the time for the remaining Backbench Business Committee debate on Thursday 23 February. I will use my best endeavours to ensure that we reinstate as soon as possible the Backbench Business Committee time lost.

    The hon. Lady asked me about trade deals. One change since the days to which she referred is that Parliament enacted the Bribery Act 2010, which has made a profound difference to the duties imposed on the directors and managers of United Kingdom companies when they do business overseas. In addition, the terms of the International Development Act 2002 mean that aid and help for the poorest in the world cannot be used to lubricate a trade deal in the way that once might have been the case.

    The hon. Lady asked about the White Paper on the great repeal Bill. That is a separate and distinct White Paper and I cannot give her an exact date, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will know that there will be an appetite in the House for Members to read and digest it before we debate the repeal Bill, which will be launched early on in the next Session after the Queen’s Speech.

    The hon. Lady asked about Surrey County Council and social care. She clearly missed the public statements made by the Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday. There is no secret deal. Surrey County Council has asked whether it can participate in one of the pilot projects for the proposed 100% return of business rates to local government responsibility. That is not possible in the 2017-18 financial year but, like any other local council, including hers, it is free to apply to be considered in the 2018-19 financial year. There is no memorandum of understanding. There is no secret document.

    The hon. Lady asked about private Members’ Bills. The reality is that there is not and never has been under any Government an automatic right for proposed legislation to become law, including Government Bills—when Governments enjoy only a small majority, they have to think carefully about the legislation they introduce and how they ensure that they secure parliamentary support.

    I take note of the strong feelings expressed in the early-day motion led by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Hon. Members are of course entitled to have strong opinions not just on what happens in this country, but on what happens anywhere else in the world. Like previous Governments of different political parties, whatever view any of us as individuals have of any leader of another country, the reality is that we have to deal with other Governments in the world as they exist, particularly elected Governments who can claim a mandate from their own people. The result of the election in the United States is a matter for the people and the constitution of the United States. We should note the fact that, despite the bitterness and the hard-fought nature of the presidential election campaign, Presidents Carter, Clinton and George W. Bush, and Secretary Hillary Clinton, attended President Trump’s inauguration.

    <END OF TURN BA>

    There was no challenge to the legitimacy of the constitutional process involved in that election.

    On the House of Lords, the House of Lords has a valued function under our constitutional arrangements in terms of scrutinising and reviewing legislation from the House of Commons. I am sure they will do that on the Bill we have been debating this week, as they do on every other Bill. I am sure they will also bear in mind the reality of the referendum and the popular mandate that lies behind the article 50 decision.

    Finally, the hon. Lady asked me at some length about Europe. I simply say this: her Front Bench supported the decision to have the referendum; her Front Bench supported the motion that endorsed the Prime Minister’s timetable for triggering article 50 before the end of March this year; and her Front Bench last night supported the Third Reading of the unamended Bill. It is therefore a little bit rich for those on the Opposition Front Bench to be giving us lectures or posting tweets saying the “Real fight starts now” when they have been endorsing, through their voices and their votes, the approach the Government are taking.

  5. Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)

    May we have a debate on how local councils review school catchment areas? Is the Leader of the House aware that the council in my area is seeking to tear up the current catchment areas in the Muxton ward, meaning that parents who have invested in local housing to access Burton Borough school in Newport will have to look elsewhere? It will also fundamentally change the way their children get to school. May we have an urgent debate to ensure children are not disenfranchised, either today or in the future?

  6. Mr Lidington

    In terms of opportunities for a debate, my hon. Friend may wish to seek an Adjournment debate through the usual procedures. These are always very difficult decisions. I think many of us know that from time to time, because of changes in population—to state the most obvious example—local authorities need to review school catchment areas. Such proposals are always subject to a period of public consultation and I am sure my hon. Friend will, as always, be extremely forceful in representing the interests of his constituents.

  7. Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)

    I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for the week but next. May I wish the happiest of birthdays to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn)? I think he was my third shadow Leader of the House, but it is so hard to keep pace with the revolving door of the Labour shadow Cabinet.

    It has been a thoroughly miserable, frustrating and depressing couple of weeks, which have shown this House at its absolute and utter worst. The article 50 Bill ran through Parliament at breakneck speed: no amendments accepted, very few amendments actually debated and considered, no Report stage programmed and no Third Reading debate held. It was more like a medieval court than an advanced parliamentary democracy.

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    It is not as if we are overburdened with work. Why was the Bill rushed through at such a speed when we could have taken time to consider the many amendments that were tabled? That showed massive disrespect not just to this House, but to the many constituents who paid very close attention to our proceedings last week.

    The Bill is now on its way to our friends down the corridor. Our unelected friends have been threatened with abolition if they dare mess with the Government’s Bill and do not do their “patriotic duty”, as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said. I am sure they are now quaking in their ermine. I offer nothing other than encouragement to these fine tribunes in ermine, who will now pick up the case. For us, it is very much a win-win whatever the outcome. I say to their lordships: reach for the barricades and take on the Government.

    <END OF TURN BB>

    We need a debate about respect for the devolved Parliaments in the nations of the UK. Article 50 was not just voted on by this House this week; the Scottish Parliament also voted on it, and the overwhelming majority of Members rejected triggering it, just as every single Scottish Member of Parliament did here, bar one. Yet we have to be driven off this cliff edge with this hardest of hard Tory Brexits, even though Scotland wants absolutely nothing to do with this madness. Time is running out for Scotland’s voice to be heard and our positions respected. I am sure that the Leader of the House saw this week’s opinion poll putting support for independence at almost 50%, so I gently say that we have options to consider if Scotland’s voice continues to be ignored.

  8. Mr Lidington

    I felt at times from the hon. Gentleman’s paeans of praise to the House of Lords that I could visualise the ermine and the coronet descending on him—that some hidden ambition was finally shining through.

    The allocation of five days for a debate on this two-clause Bill that did no more than authorise the Prime Minister to trigger article 50 seems perfectly reasonable to me. That allocation of time has allowed, even this week, about half the number of Scottish National party Members to participate in proceedings, either through speeches or interventions. Listening to some of the contributions from the SNP Benches, my impression was that the atmosphere was far from being all doom and gloom. The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) entertained us royally for nearly an hour this week and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

    Read more

    The reality is that the Bill has been brought forward in response to a very clear referendum decision by the electorate of the United Kingdom. It is very different from the Bills that the House debated previously to ratify various EU-amending treaties over the years.

    The hon. Gentleman complains about the alleged lack of respect and attention being paid to Scotland. As the Prime Minister said yet again yesterday, the United Kingdom Government are determined to work with the Scottish Government, as well as with the Governments in Cardiff and Belfast, to ensure that the interests of every part of the United Kingdom are represented in the negotiations on which we are about to embark. That commitment is sincere: it is felt very strongly by the Prime Minister, and she has impressed it on every member of the Cabinet.

  9. Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con)

    Local concerns have been raised in Cambridgeshire—not least as a result of the excellent forensic work of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay)—about funding decisions taken by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough local enterprise partnership. May we have a debate in Government time to ensure that there is proper transparency and accountability of LEPs so that their decisions are fair, properly scrutinised and their efficacy is appropriately tested?

  10. Mr Lidington

    Members of LEPs on the whole do a good job in providing a forum for bringing local business and public authorities together and for trying to leverage private sector investment, along with public sector investment, to support such things as infrastructure projects. However, they have to pay regard to the fact that they are the custodians of public money and need to make sure that they have proper rules on accountability and transparency, as would be expected of anybody in receipt of taxpayers’ money. My hon. Friend may have the opportunity to raise these issues further at Communities and Local Government questions on Monday 27 February.

  11. Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab)

    Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on social care funding? As part of that, will he ask the Department for Communities and Local Government to publish any contact between Surrey and Ministers or aides in the Department, so that the debate can be informed? My local authority in Nottinghamshire is absolutely incandescent, as I am sure are other authorities, about the way in which, it appears, Surrey has been offered a sweetheart deal while it has been left to fend for itself.

  12. Mr Lidington

    As I have already made clear, there is no sweetheart deal, and Nottingham is also welcome to apply, as Surrey has indicated it wishes to do, for the full return of business rates finance to local authorities in the 2018-19 financial year. The DCLG statement yesterday gave a full account of what has happened. There has been a lot of fuss and complaint, but actually it is much less of a story than the hon. Gentleman believes.

  13. Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)

    May we have a debate on armed forces charities? I am honoured to be president of the Huddersfield branch of the Royal Air Forces Association. If parliamentary business had been different, I would have been at Huddersfield crematorium this afternoon for the funeral of Trevor Burgin OBE. He was 92. During the second world war, he was a bomber pilot and flew many missions over Europe. He then had a successful 40-year career as a teacher. Last year, he celebrated his platinum wedding anniversary—70 years of marriage—with Kathleen. Will the Leader of the House please pass on the condolences of every Member and express our sympathy for the family and our support for armed forces charities? Trevor was an enthusiastic and popular member of the Huddersfield branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.

  14. Mr Lidington

    No one in the Chamber would dissent from my hon. Friend’s tribute to the late Trevor Burgin. It was particularly good that my hon. Friend talked briefly about his late constituent’s career of service, because it reminds us that behind the statistics and generalities there are stories of true heroism and a lifetime of public service and commitment. We are all aware that armed forces charities do incredibly important and good work in our constituencies, often quietly and unsung, in reaching out to people still scarred by the physical and mental consequences for their health of their time in service.

  15. Several hon. Members rose—

  16. Mr Speaker

    Order. Over 30 Members are seeking to catch my eye. I advise the House that 36 Members wish to speak in the first of the two Backbench Business Committee debates, and 12 wish to contribute to the second. If I am to have any chance of accommodating that later Back-Bench interest we need to be moving on by, or very close to, 12.30 pm. May we please have short questions and short answers?

  17. Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)

    Last week, I visited the Sanger Institute, just outside Cambridge, where 1,100 people, of whom over 25% are non-UK EU nationals, are transforming our understanding of the human genome. Its senior manager has impressed upon me the gravity of the situation. Many of those people are poorly paid and would be unable to work through the tier 2 visa system. May we have a statement on this pressing skills crisis, which could damage some of the UK’s most successful research institutions?

  18. Mr Lidington

    The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point about his and other scientific institutions. As the Prime Minister said, the Government regard an early deal to secure the position of both EU residents already here and British nationals in other European countries as a primary objective. We want that sorted as quickly as possible.

  19. Sir Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con)

    I very much agree with my right hon. Friend’s remarks about the recent proceedings on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Should the other place seek to delay the triggering of article 50 beyond the end of March, will he find time for a debate in Government time so that this House can discuss possibility of either the abolition or the full-scale reform of the other place?

  20. Mr Lidington

    I am more optimistic than my right hon. Friend. I think there is an awareness among Members of the House of Lords that, in an unelected Chamber, there are conventions that apply to the way in which they scrutinise and deal with proposed legislation. I do not want to take anything away from their proper constitutional role. I think they are very cognisant of the fact that ours is the elected House and we voted in favour of the Bill by a huge majority last night, and also of the fact that behind that vote lay the much bigger vote of the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.

  21. Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)

    May we please have a debate on the legal definition of the word “normally”? Section 2 of the Scotland Act 2016 states that

    “it is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”If the Government intend to ignore the wishes of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament over issues of such importance as the triggering of article 50, may we please find out what other important issues relating to the devolution agreement they intend to ride roughshod over?

  22. Mr Lidington

    I think the ears of every lawyer in the country will have pricked up at the suggestion that we have a debate on the meaning of the word “normally”. I suspect that the interpretation of the word may depend on which lawyer’s opinion is sought.

    I repeat that the Government have been absolutely consistent in saying that the interests of the entire United Kingdom, from Fair Isle to the Scillies, will be fully represented in the approach that we adopt to these negotiations.

  23. Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)

    Last month I hosted a reception to welcome a report published by Rural England, “State of Rural Services 2016”. It considers the growing impact of rural challenges on, for instance, health, education, welfare, broadband and transport. Last week I chaired a local meeting to discuss the impact of the loss of bus services. It is evident that the rural agenda is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver, and rural residents are understandably becoming ever more frustrated. Will my right hon. Friend grant a debate so that we can consider the challenges to rural funding and rural services more broadly?

  24. Mr Lidington

    My hon. Friend may have two bites at the cherry after the recess: Communities and Local Government questions will take place on 27 February, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 2 March. I can also tell her that the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently undertaking a review of the fair funding formula to establish whether authorities throughout the country are indeed receiving their fair share of the overall cake.

  25. Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)

    Although the Department for Work and Pensions office in Cwmbran in my constituency does not face immediate closure, the jobs there will be relocated to Cardiff in the next three years. Before that happens and those jobs are lost from my local community, may we have a debate on the DWP’s strategy in relation to where it locates its offices?

  26. Mr Lidington

    I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s particular concerns about Cwmbran are relayed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, but the principle behind these changes must be the right one. It must be right for the Department to stop paying out unnecessary rent on property that is partly empty, to use a smaller estate—particularly given the significant fall in unemployment—and to use savings partly to fund additional advice services for the people whom it is most difficult to help into work. That must be the right way of going about things.

  27. Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)

    This weekend, following an inquiry chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), the Defence Sub-Committee will publish a report entitled “Who Guards the Guardians?”. It sets out in some detail the circumstances in which a poisonous charlatan such as Phil Shiner was able to abuse our system of legal aid and the provisions of human rights legislation to hounds hundreds of British soldiers who had served bravely in Iraq and done nothing wrong. May we, at the earliest opportunity, have a statement, resulting from consultations between the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Justice, on what legislation will be introduced to ensure that nothing like that can happen to former service personnel who served in Northern Ireland?

  28. Mr Lidington

    As the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, we take this issue very seriously, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that when the report is published Ministers from the Departments he has mentioned will want to study it closely and consult our hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) about the potential policy implications.

  29. Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab)

    Exactly a month ago I asked the Secretary of State for Transport about the new High Speed 2 spur line running through Derbyshire, which means there will be two HS2s running through Derbyshire, not one—a fast track and a slow track. This new line is going to bring destruction and havoc to the village of Newton, which will result in the villagers losing their homes. I called upon the Secretary of State to intervene, but have never had a reply. Shall we have a statement about this matter? How far will the Government take it without responding to the people of Newton, who have suddenly realised that the second HS2 line is going to destroy their homes and their lives? Now, sort it out.

  30. Mr Lidington

    I know only too well the impact of the HS2 proposals on communities close to the designated route, and I undertake to the hon. Gentleman to ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport is reminded about his inquiry on this matter. It is right that the people the hon. Gentleman represents should get a proper response from HS2 Ltd, and I undertake to try to make certain that that happens.

  31. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)

    The Leader of the House will recall that last week I spoke about the mounting excitement in Cleethorpes in anticipation of a visit from the northern powerhouse Minister. He will appreciate that it is now at fever pitch, with the visit only 24 hours away, and people are talking about a parallel career path with the last Front Bencher to visit Seaview street, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). More seriously, the Seaview street traders won a Great British high street awards award. Up and down the country, traders are facing difficulties. May we have a debate to discuss the future of our high streets?

  32. Mr Lidington

    I cannot offer my hon. Friend a debate in Government time, but I agree that this is an important issue that affects many communities, and the growth of online sales means many small retailers face challenges. It is important that retailers are able to learn from high streets that are successful and innovative in managing to keep their customers. After what my hon. Friend has said, there will probably now be a swathe of my ambitious and thrusting ministerial colleagues making a beeline for Cleethorpes at the earliest opportunity.

  33. Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP)

    May we have a statement on the shock and disappointment being felt across Scotland at the failure of former England captain David Beckham to gain a knighthood? This is particularly the case since he had been advised that his fawning support for the Better Together campaign in 2014 would

    “play well with establishment and in turn help your knighthood.”

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    We can all associate with his sense of disappointment when he replied:

    “They r a bunch of”

    expletive-deletives,

    “It’s a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would of got…this 10 years ago.”

    Surely the Leader of the House can bend one for Beckham?

  34. Mr Lidington

    I was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was speaking on behalf of Mr Beckham or whether there was some other motive there—a certain yearning for the knighthood himself. But I can honestly say to him that this is not a matter for me.

  35. Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)

    The Leader of the House will know that I am keen to have another debate on international women’s day, which is forthcoming in March. Meanwhile, it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans history month, and given the utterly false suggestion by some Opposition Members yesterday that Brexit will mean a bonfire of lesbian, gay, transsexual and women’s rights, may we have a debate on this area around Brexit as Hampshire County Council starts to fly the rainbow flag for Hampshire Pride week?

  36. Mr Lidington

    I am glad that I can provide the reassurance that my hon. Friend seeks. The United Kingdom had a strong and proud tradition of human rights and liberal values before we entered the European Union, and that tradition will continue after we have left it. She has only to look at another non-EU country in Europe, Norway, to see that there is no bar to a liberal approach to individual rights as a result of being apart from the European Union.

  37. Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)

    It is currently possible for the widowed parent of a new-born baby to receive up to £119,000 over 20 years, but if a partner dies after 6 April 2017 bereavement payments will be limited to a mere £9,800 over 18 months. May we please have a debate in Government time to discuss these Department for Work and Pensions reforms, which will cause severe hardship to grieving families?

  38. Mr Lidington

    There will be questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on our first day back, Monday 20 February, so the hon. Lady will have an opportunity to raise the matter on that occasion.

  39. Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)

    I do not know whether you have ever attended a speedway meeting, Mr Speaker, but that fast, exciting motor sport has always attracted a family audience. Speedway racing has taken place at Brandon in my constituency since the early days of the sport in the 1920s. Unfortunately, as a consequence of a dispute over the use of the stadium at Brandon, the Coventry Bees will start the new season this summer 25 miles away in Leicester, at great inconvenience to local fans. May we have a debate on the governance of this sport?

  40. Mr Lidington

    I am sure that if my hon. Friend were to draw his concerns to the attention of the Minister for Sport she would be only too delighted to see what is happening in the speedway world in the midlands. As he has suggested, however, the governance of the sport is a matter for the independent governing bodies of the sport rather than a matter in which Ministers should intervene.

  41. Several hon. Members rose—

  42. Mr Speaker

    Order. Before we proceed further, I can say to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner), in the light of his business question, that before I came into the Chamber this morning I selected his proposed subject matter for the end-of-day Adjournment debate on the first Thursday after we return from the half-term recess, Thursday 23 February.

  43. Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab)

    May we have a statement from the Leader of the House himself—perhaps he could do it now—on how the Government bring forward Bills to this House? The fact that they did not programme a Report stage for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill makes it quite clear that they had no intention of accepting any of the 100 amendments that were tabled by well-intentioned Members. May we have a statement on whether it was indeed the Government’s intention to ride roughshod over this parliamentary process, making the past three days a sham?

  44. Mr Lidington

    The programme motion was very clear that there was provision for a Report stage. Whether there would be debating time for one would, as always, depend on whether amendments had been carried and on how long the House wished to continue to debate the amendments in Committee ahead of a Report stage.

  45. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)

    I should like to wish the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) a happy birthday. He has been an outstanding parliamentarian. I should also like to thank him for inspiring me. I was once his constituent, and his antics drove me to run for Parliament. I thank him for that. Does the Leader of the House accept that this Parliament works because we have two Houses? Sometimes the other place does not agree with us, which annoys the Government, but that is no reason whatever to threaten it with abolition. May we have a statement from the Leader of the House to confirm that?

  46. Mr Lidington

    The Government’s position is that we completely respect the constitutional role of the House of Lords. As I said earlier, the House of Lords itself accepts that, as an unelected House, it needs to abide by certain conventions.

  47. Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab)

    I should like to thank you, Mr Speaker, and other Members for your very kind comments; I am less happy about the fact that I must carry for life the burden of being responsible for the parliamentary career of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone).

    I have a suggestion that might appeal to you, Mr Speaker, given your great record as an innovator and trailblazer in this House. May we have a debate on procedure during Divisions, to enable us to enjoy more of the singing of the Scottish National party choir? The only bright spark in the midst of yesterday evening’s bleak, mean-spirited chauvinism was hearing the glorious words of the European anthem:

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    “Freude, schöner Götterfunken,

    Tochter aus Elysium,

    Wir betreten feuertrunken,

    Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!”

    And the essence of the European ideal:

    “Alle Menschen werden Brüder,

    Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.”

    That looks forward to the great European ideal, on which this Government are now trampling, and embodies the idea that a day will come when all humanity will be one family.

  48. Mr Lidington

    It is rightly a Welshman who highlights the importance of singing. My advice to hon. Members on the Scottish National party Benches would be that we have an all-party parliamentary choir—for staff as well as Members—that meets in the Crypt every Monday evening. I know that SNP Members would be welcome to join those who already participate.

  49. Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)

    I am not sure how to follow that question! In the past 10 days, we have heard about Weetabix’s £30 million investment, and about the expansion of the Tayto Group, all of which is good for jobs in Corby. Of course we must never be complacent, but may we have a statement next week from Ministers on the real news, rather than fake news, about the number of jobs that have been created and the investment that has taken place in the UK economy since 23 June?

  50. Mr Lidington

    My hon. Friend makes a good point. The additional investment projects that have been announced in the United Kingdom since the referendum are a tribute to the underlying strength of the economy of this country, and that is a strength on which this Government are determined to build further.

  51. Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)

    I should like to speak on behalf of the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who is indisposed with a prolapsed disc; I am sure that the whole House will wish him a speedy recovery.

    The Committee was placed in an invidious position at our meeting on Tuesday, and I know that the Chairman has written to the Leader of the House about this. We believed that we had been given a full day on 23 February, and we had allocated two debates for that day. We have now been left in a very difficult position. I understand that the Budget will be on 8 March, and that it will be debated on a succession of days thereafter, so even if we fill every Thursday between now and Prorogation, we will not get all our allotted days. Furthermore, we have allocated a debate on Welsh affairs for 2 March, as close as possible to St David’s day, and a debate on international women’s day on a date prior to that day, which is the day of the Budget.

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    Will my right hon. Friend ensure that we get 2 March as a Back-Bench business day, and that the protected time on 23 February will be sufficient for a proper debate on the chosen subject, which is child refugees in Greece and Italy?

    I should like to make one further point, if I may. There was a terrible incident in my constituency yesterday in which a young man was stabbed at Queensbury station. The whole station was closed, inconveniencing passengers, as a result of this gang fight. May we have a statement on the action that the Government are going to take to combat knife crime, so that no other individual need suffer that terrible fate?

  52. Mr Lidington

    On the points about the Backbench Business Committee, as I said earlier, what has happened in regard to 23 February is regrettable and I am sorry that that decision proved necessary. I can give my hon. Friend a firm assurance that the protected time on that day will be sufficient to allow for a full debate on the subject that the Committee continues to recommend. I will do my best to ensure that the time for a further debate that has been lost is made up as rapidly as possible. I will certainly take into careful account his remarks about 2 March, because I know how important the annual St David’s day debate is for Welsh Members from all political parties.

    On my hon. Friend’s point about his constituency case, the sense of shock that came through in his question will have been shared across the House. I will ensure that the Home Secretary is alerted to that particular case, but my hon. Friend will know that the penalties for knife crime have been increased and that the police are doing their utmost to combat the sort of gang warfare that he describes.

  53. Several hon. Members rose—

  54. Mr Speaker

    Order. To move on at 12.30 pm, I am afraid that we need one-sentence questions from now on.

  55. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)

    Forty-one years ago, 10 Protestants were murdered by the Provisional IRA at Kingsmill. A man was subsequently charged because his palm print was found on one of the vehicles involved in the atrocity, but the Public Prosecution Service told the families this morning that that was insufficient evidence to prosecute the alleged IRA man. At the same time, soldiers are being dragged through the courts in Northern Ireland. When will we get equity of prosecutions in Northern Ireland?

  56. Mr Lidington

    As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made it clear that he is working to try to address the way in which soldiers have been unfairly singled out. The Public Prosecution Service is rightly independent of political direction, so I cannot comment on the particular case, but anyone who knows anything about Northern Ireland will know that the scars of the Kingsmill massacre remain to this day.

  57. Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)

    Residents in my constituency have been badly let down by their house builder, Bellway, which has not completed houses to standard. This week, they have been further let down because the White Paper makes no provision for a new homes ombudsman. Will the Leader of the House please raise that omission with the Housing Minister?

  58. Mr Lidington

    I will certainly ensure that the Minister is alerted, but I inform the hon. Lady that she will be able to raise that point again at Communities and Local Government questions on Monday 27 February.

  59. George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP)

    My constituent, Mr Christopher Bronsdon, is a victim of an anomaly in the civil service pension arrangements whereby contract and short-service employees leaving service lose the employer contributions from their pension pot. As a result, people such as Mr Bronsdon have lost £100 million in recent years, so may we have a debate on that?

  60. Mr Lidington

    The best advice I can give the hon. Gentleman is to apply for an Adjournment debate. If he wants to write to me with the details of the problem, I will pass them on to DWP Ministers.

  61. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

    I was pleased that Surrey County Council spoke out about the social care funding scandal, but if it is bad there, think how much worse it is in Hull—the third most deprived area of the country—where a £45 million shortfall in social funding is forecast by 2020. After yesterday’s revelations, can all Members of Parliament outside the stockbroker belt be given the telephone number of “Nick” so that we can all text him to get the best deal that our areas need?

  62. Mr Lidington

    I am tempted to say that the hon. Lady had better make sure that she gets through to the right “Nick”, which can sometimes prove quite tricky. Nobody is pretending that the country is not facing a serious social care challenge, which is why the Government have increased funding through the better care fund and the social care precept. In the medium term, however, we need to ensure that the best, most successful local authorities are able to disseminate their achievements among local authorities that are not performing so well and that health and social care work together more closely.

  63. Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

    Earlier on, the International Trade Secretary told me that US investors are reluctant to invest in Scotland due to the threat of Scottish independence. Can we have a statement from the International Trade Secretary to tell us who those investors are, how much money we are talking about, what the projects are, and what the UK Government are doing to ensure that Scotland is open for business?

  64. Mr Lidington

    As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), the United Kingdom’s track record since the referendum has been that we continue to attract investment from all around the world. If there are particular difficulties in attracting investment into Scotland, the hon. Gentleman might look at the recently approved Scottish Government budget, for example, which has made Scots the highest-taxed people in the United Kingdom.

  65. Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

    Mr Ali Moezzi, a prominent Iranian political prisoner, was taken to an unknown location by agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence following a weekly family prison visit on 4 January. In a statement on 13 January, the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom again warned about the threat to Mr Moezzi’s life and called for international action to secure his release. Time is of the essence, so can we have an urgent statement on the matter?

  66. Mr Lidington

    To the hon. Gentleman’s good fortune, the Minister responsible for the middle east is in his place on the Front Bench. He will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s remarks and I am sure he will want to respond.

  67. Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)

    With industrial action today at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and with its chair advising the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the EHRC is at the limits of what it can do to discharge its statutory duties, can we have a debate in Government time on the EHRC’s funding so that victims of hate crime are protected?

  68. Mr Lidington

    The hon. Gentleman may want to seek an Adjournment debate, but the EHRC rightly operates at arm’s length from Ministers and has to make its own decisions about how to live within its means, just like every other public authority,

  69. Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP)

    May we have a debate in Government time to allow the House to reflect on the full import of what the Supreme Court said about the Sewel convention, so that important questions about its future application and adherence to it are not just left to contend with the other frictions and fictions of the great repeal Bill?

  70. Mr Lidington

    There will be questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland on Wednesday 1 March, at which there will be opportunities for that matter to be raised. I am absolutely certain that there will be ample opportunity for all such questions to be debated when we get to the EU repeal Bill after the Queen’s Speech.

  71. Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)

    Given that the Exiting the European Union Committee was told as recently as yesterday that the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU negotiations) has not even begun to consider the wording of the article 50 letter, which some reports suggest might be submitted exactly four weeks today, can we have a statement on the Committee’s intended timetable?

  72. Mr Lidington

    Although Joint Ministerial Committee meetings are important, contact between UK Ministers and their counterparts in the three devolved Administrations, and between UK Government officials in all relevant Departments and officials in the devolved Administrations, continues on a daily and weekly basis. The consultation and understanding of the particular priorities of the devolved Administrations are part of the mainstream work of UK Government Departments.

  73. Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)

    At the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) called the jobcentre closure plans “illogical”. In the Scottish Parliament, the Tories called for an equality impact assessment and greater detail. May we have a debate in Government time on the DWP’s estate closure plans and a moratorium on closures until Members across the House and people across these islands can have confidence that the Government actually know what they are doing?

  74. Mr Lidington

    It is a forlorn hope that the hon. Lady and members of her party might actually take some pleasure in the massive fall in unemployment and the growth in employment that we have seen in this country, including in Scotland and, indeed, in Glasgow. It cannot be right for the DWP to spend money unnecessarily on unoccupied buildings when that money could be redeployed to give additional advice and support to people with disabilities or the long-term unemployed, who want and need that additional support to get back into employment.

  75. Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)

    Yesterday, TSB announced the closure of its Cambuslang branch. In less than a year, all three banks in the town will have vanished. In the light of the announced Post Office partnership with UK banks to deliver day-to-day banking services, can we have a debate on the capacity and capability of the post office network to cope with an increase in service and custom?

  76. Mr Lidington

    That might well be a good subject for either a Backbench Business debate or an Adjournment debate, if the hon. Lady is fortunate in the ballot.

  77. Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)

    Not only did the Scottish Parliament vote against article 50, but it managed to deal with all its votes and amendments in less than five minutes. Yesterday, it took us two hours to deal with 10 votes. Does the Leader of the House agree that if we had electronic voting, we would have more time for debate—even if it did mean that we had less time to sing “Ode to Joy”?

  78. Mr Lidington

    Call me old-fashioned, but it is quite a good idea that people are present in Parliament in order to vote. If we move to electronic and remote voting, that disconnects the voting decisions from the debate itself.

  79. Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)

    May we have an important debate on mobility payments to assist children who require palliative care? There is an arbitrary cut-off in that children must be aged three, which I am campaigning to change. The cut-off discounts the needs of families caring for very young children in life-threatening situations.

  80. Mr Lidington

    The hon. Lady makes an interesting point and I am not aware of the details of that particular issue. If she would like to give me some more detail, I will take it up with the appropriate Minister, and she may wish also to seek an Adjournment debate.

  81. Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)

    May we have a statement on the Government definition of a “marriage-like relationship”? My constituent, Robert Makutsa, is under imminent threat of deportation because the Home Office does not recognise Robert’s relationship with his fiancée Chloe. That is because, as committed Christians, Robert and Chloe have not cohabited before their marriage. Can the Government consider making such a statement urgently?

  82. Mr Lidington

    Individual cases are, of course, subject to an independent system of appeals under our immigration and asylum rules; Ministers do not intervene in the way that the hon. Lady suggests in individual cases. Those rules provide for tests to try to distinguish between people who are living together as a matter of convenience—as sadly does sometimes happen—and those in a genuine and committed relationship, whether within marriage or without. I encourage her to write to the Immigration Minister about the particular case.

  83. Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)

    Fair Trade Fortnight is just around the corner: can we mark it with a debate on how UK trade policy affects some of the world’s poorest peoples?

  84. Mr Lidington

    UK support for free trade can be enormously beneficial to people living in poor countries because it means that they should be able to get readier access to customers in our country without tariffs or other regulations getting in the way. Trade and enterprise have shown themselves again and again over the decades to be the best long-term guarantee of economic growth and prosperity for people in poorer countries all around the world.

  85. Mr Speaker

    I have received a report from the tellers in the No Lobby yesterday for Division 157 on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in respect of amendment 86. The number of those voting No was erroneously reported as 327 instead of 337. The Ayes were 288 and the Noes were 337.