Business Questions 23 November 2017

Posted on November 23rd, 2017

During Business Questions I raised that the List of Ministers interests has not been updated in almost a year, we need transparency with the ongoing trade negotiations.

Here is my speech at Business Questions this week:

I thank the Leader of the House for helpfully giving us the forthcoming business all the way up to the Christmas recess. I also thank her for the extra Opposition day, which is very useful.

I am slightly saddened that the date given for the debate on restoration and renewal was not when the Leader of the House originally said she intended it to be—she said it would be before Christmas—and that it is now scheduled for a Thursday, which is not particularly helpful for Members who come from far-flung constituencies. Will she consider holding the debate earlier in the week, and may we have a look at the motion before we rise for recess? It has been 14 months since the report—[Interruption.] Sorry, is there a problem? The hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) is a lawyer, so he ought to know that judges would not put up with this. It has been 14 months since the report on restoration and renewal, and the costs are increasing every time they are mentioned.

Last week, I asked about the list of Ministers’ interests, but the Leader of the House did not respond to that point and nor did she write to me. As of yesterday, the list had not been updated since December last year. Will she ensure that it is updated as soon as possible, particularly as trade negotiations are ongoing? We want to ensure that there is transparency and no conflict of interests.

Is the Leader of the House aware of when the EU sectoral impact assessments that have been requested are going to be provided to the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn)? I think the deadline is on Tuesday; I am sure she is aware of the possible sanctions for missing it.

May we have a statement on the £3 billion in the Budget for preparations for our exit from the European Union? No detail was given. We know that the Department for Exiting the European Union has 300 staff and that the Department for International Trade has 2,000. Will the Leader of the House be explicit about exactly what that money is for, or could the Chancellor make a statement?

Other than the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, we are still waiting for the Bills on immigration, fisheries and agriculture; will the Leader of the House please say when they will be published?

Despite the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union saying that we would not, we have lost the European Banking Authority to France and the European Medicines Agency to Holland. We are also losing our influence because we have lost our judge on the International Court of Justice.

Will the Leader of the House do the House the courtesy of providing time for a debate or oral statement on the forensic services? In 2012, the coalition Government sold off the Forensic Science Service. Despite warnings at the time and the National Audit Office warning that standards were slipping two years ago, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service confirmed in a written statement on Tuesday that tests by Trimega between 2010 and 2014 and by Randox Testing Services between 2013 and 2014 are being treated as potentially unreliable. The police were informed that there might have been manipulation of test results, affecting almost 10,000 cases. Customers include local authorities, individuals’ legal representatives, employers and the police. The House needs to know what the Government will do to restore public confidence in forensic science and to restore the Forensic Science Service. The Minister must come to the House, as requested by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh).

If it is not being sold off, it is being cut, so may we have an urgent statement from the Justice Secretary? In response to a written question from the shadow Justice Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), it was said that the Ministry of Justice will have suffered cumulative cuts of 40% in its budget in the fiscal decade ending 2020. The right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), the former Leader of the House, has now gone to a Department that has actually been cut in half. The Law Society says that the cuts are having a real impact on the ability of the most vulnerable in our society to access justice—so justice for the few, not the many.

The Chancellor has forgotten about defending our country, as there is nothing on defence; forgotten about the elderly, as there is nothing on social care; forgotten about students, as there is nothing on student finance or on the review of university finance; forgotten about those who work in the public sector or local government who provide services that underpin our communities; forgotten about affordable homes; forgotten how much was set aside for the liabilities that we will have to pay to the EU; and forgotten about mental health. There is £28 billion to a cash-rich local authority and nothing to anyone else. May we have a statement on all those topics?

There is no innovation, just stagnation. The Chancellor did not mention that the Office for Budget Responsibility had said that Brexit played a part in weak productivity, which has resulted in a revised downward growth forecast. There was also no measure to kick-start a stagnant economy. The pound has fallen today. Can we have a statement from the Chancellor on what will be done about that?

The Government cannot win an argument, which is why the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), had to resort to personal insults to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. Mr Speaker, you were not here, but there were plenty of seats behind the Prime Minister at PMQs and during the Chancellor’s Budget speech, so there was no need to sit on the stairs. We debate in this Chamber, not sledge—that is for cricket matches.

Sorry, I have forgotten something—there was one innovative thing in the Chancellor’s speech. He and the Government seem obsessed by driverless cars. We know why—when driverless cars crash, there is no driver to take the blame.