Business Questions 21 December 2017

Posted on December 21st, 2017

At Business Questions this week, I asked for adequate time for a debate and vote on Accountable Care Organisations in relation to an integrated health and social care system. The last time this Government tried to reorganise the NHS with the disastrous Health and Social Care Act 2012 it cost the country £3 billion.

Here are the issues I raised:

I thank the Leader of the House for the future business. I am also pleased about Birmingham getting the Commonwealth games—I have my running shoes on already.

I note that there was no date for the restoration and renewal debate. I know that the Leader of the House listened to the Members from across the House who felt that a Thursday was not an appropriate day because many people have different things to do. As the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is moving to the other place, will she say when the R and R debate is likely to occur? We need to act sooner rather than later. The many people on the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster worked on the report, but it has taken a long time to get that debate going.

Prime Minister’s questions are becoming more like Prime Minister’s slogans. We have heard “fit for the future”, so, if this is a way to stop her, we say, “Fit for the future with Labour.” Someone needs to update the Prime Minister, because she mentioned sustainable and transformational partnerships in relation to an integrated health and social care system, which she says Labour is opposed to, but of course we are because it is another reorganisation, such as the disastrous Health and Social Care Act 2012, which cost the country £3 billion. The Prime Minister did not mention accountable care organisations, but to whom are they accountable? Last week, I asked the Leader of the House when the Government were intending to lay the relevant regulations before the House, but unfortunately she did not give me an answer, so will confirm that there will be adequate time for a debate and a vote?

Another week means another U-turn or two. On Tuesday, we found out that plans to end the revenue support grant and allow councils to keep 100% of business rates would be put on hold. Not everyone has Oxford Street in their constituency, so we hope the change will end the bizarre policy of councils buying shopping malls. [Interruption.] I do not know why the Whip is chuntering when you asked for no chuntering or murmuring, Mr Speaker. If he would just listen, that would be helpful. The Government are consulting on a fair funding review, and the consultation closes on 12 March. Given that the House is in recess for two weeks over Christmas, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the consultation could be extended until the end of March to give people time to respond?

The other U-turn came on Tuesday, when my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) led a Westminster Hall debate on the exclusion of foster carers from being able to claim free childcare for their foster children. Foster carers do a fantastic job for society. I did not understand the policy, but the Minister ended the exclusion and should be congratulated on closing that gap in policy. That is what we would like to see on our Opposition days. We want to work constructively where there are gaps in policy.

I asked the Leader of the House about the sifting committee for statutory instruments, and she indicated that she will propose changes to standing orders when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill has received Royal Assent. If she could do that when the Bill is in the other place, that might be quite helpful. Given the many statutory powers the Government are reserving to themselves, will she confirm through the usual channels, fairly quickly perhaps, that the chair of the committee will be from the Opposition?

May we have a statement on why the Equality and Human Rights Commission is not appointing people because Ministers are vetoing appointments on political grounds? At the moment, the board cannot function. Sarah Veale, the former head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC, despite being supported by the chair of the board, has not been reappointed. She was told that the decision not to reappoint her was taken because a political adviser at No. 10 had noticed a tweet she had sent disapproving of some Government policy. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are not vetoing appointments on grounds of dissent from the Government, and will the Government look again at reappointing Ms Veale? She is highly qualified and supported by the chair.

As the Prime Minister travels to Poland, and given that the EU has just formally advised the other 27 member states that the Polish Government’s legislative programme is putting at risk fundamental values expected of a democratic state, including judicial independence, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Prime Minister will be raising the rule of law with the Polish Government? Is this the kind of Government our Government are to do trade deals with? Our country played a vital role in drafting, and was the first to sign up to, the European convention on human rights. We promote the rule of law throughout the world.

The Leader of the House mentioned the events in Melbourne. Looking back on the year—from Westminster to Manchester, from London Bridge to Finsbury Park—I think of the families spending their first Christmas grieving for their lost loved ones, including our own Deputy Speaker. Our prayers are with him and his family at this difficult time. I am pleased that, following the statement by Mayor Burnham, the Government, who initially were only going to put £12 million towards Manchester’s public services, will now pay the full £28 million asked for. Yesterday was International Human Solidarity Day. We always see the country come together during disasters and difficult times. We should strive to do that when there are no disasters.

I want to thank the Opposition Chief Whip for all his support and help; my staff and his; the Government Chief Whip, given last week’s vote, for his support; the Leader of the House and her family; the Deputy Leader of the House, who has been so loyal throughout the years under different Leaders of the House; your family, Mr Speaker, and your office in particular; the Clerks; Phil and his team of Doorkeepers; the House of Commons Library; the official reporters; catering and cleaning staff; postal workers; security; and all right hon. and hon. Members and their families.

Finally, I have to do this, Mr Speaker—it is a joke from a Christmas cracker, and I am just trying to set the scene for the future: what do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees? Horn-aments! May I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year?