Business Questions 1 February 2018

Posted on February 1st, 2018

This week I raised the quarterly police figures which show a 14% rise in recorded crime in England and Wales. Domestic burglary is up 32%. That is mirrored in Walsall South: a young couple who just got married had their wedding jewellery stolen, and another constituent gave me a video of a gang entering a home and marching people upstairs to rob them. There is only one police station in Darlaston, and that is closing. It is unfair to say that the Government are protecting the police budget. I asked for an urgent debate or a statement from the Minister on how much more money will be given to local councils to protect local services?

 

Here are the issues I raised:

 

“I thank the Leader of the House for setting out next week’s business. A robin in the Chamber, a blue blood moon and Roger Federer winning the Australian open—but I will not mention the thing that you were not very happy about, Mr Speaker: Swansea beating Arsenal. Oh dear.

 

I thank the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), the Backbench Business Committee and other Members for suggesting that a debate on restoration and renewal take place today. If the Committee had not agreed to that debate, the Government would not have been pushed into having it yesterday. As the Leader of the House rightly said, a decision has been made. I, too, thank everyone who took part in and signed the amendments for such an excellent debate; it was well-tempered, and people made their points.

 

The Leader of the House mentioned the pre-recess Adjournment debate. I hope that she gets her deputy very soon, because she has her hands full with restoration and renewal. She has been assiduous in trying to engage Members, particularly on the northern estate programme. I know that she will do the same with restoration and renewal. May I press her, though, on the date for the summer recess? It is only one date, so I hope that she will be able to give it to us very soon.

 

The Leader of the House mentioned the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which provisionally comes to the House for debate on 20 February. It started in the other place, so will she confirm whether there are plans for any Brexit Bills to start in the other place? The Bill was published on the same day that it had its First Reading. Will she reassure the House that that will not be the case for the other 15 Brexit Bills?

 

On Brexit, it is a year since the Lancaster House speech on the Government’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU, but the Government appear to have abandoned the financial sector. They have shelved a position paper setting out their trade goals for financial services after Brexit. Is the Leader of the House aware that the policy chair at the City of London corporation says that the sector had been counting on the paper to clarify Government policy, and that “the City is left in the dark”? And so say all of us. When can we expect publication of the position paper on financial services, which will affect 1 million people?

 

It seems that the Government have annoyed the City; they have also annoyed the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and all the Opposition. The Government have said that the “EU Exit Analysis—Cross Whitehall Briefing” will be published. Will the Leader of the House say exactly when it will be provided to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union and to Members but not on a restricted basis?

 

The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), said that civil servants who do their work are “always wrong”. He appears to have a bizarre understanding of what civil servants do. They are independent; they follow Government instructions and Government policy. Could we have an apology from the Minister to the civil service?

 

Next week, there will be debate on a motion on the police grant. Quarterly police figures show a 14% rise in recorded crime in England and Wales. Domestic burglary is up 32%. That is mirrored exactly in my constituency: a young couple who just got married had their wedding jewellery stolen, and another constituent gave me a video of a gang entering a home and marching people upstairs to rob them. There is only one police station in my constituency, in Darlaston, and that is closing, despite having been upgraded. It is not fair to say that the Government are protecting the police budget. May we have an urgent debate—perhaps a Minister could make a statement—on how much more money will be given to local councils to protect local services? When it comes to taxes, it is not right or fair for the Government to shift the burden on to local councils.

 

Mr Speaker, you allowed an urgent question on Capita earlier, but I want the Leader of the House’s reassurance that the Government’s jobseeker’s allowance helpline and the helpline that administers the teachers’ pension scheme will be protected. I would also like a statement on how much the Government have outsourced to Capita.

 

Finally, we are celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave 6 million women the right to vote. We still have to put up with men-only clubs. The test should be: would the Prime Minister be invited? Was she invited to the Presidents Club? The answer is no, but she has been invited to give a speech on Tuesday in Westminster Hall. I encourage all Members to celebrate this landmark in the UK’s history between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm on that day. The event will launch Parliament’s Vote 100 programme for 2018. Women have moved from their place behind the grille at the back of the Chamber to its Floor. As we celebrate that, let us all think of those unseen men and women who speak out and fight every day for equality for all.”