Business Questions 1 March 2018

Posted on March 1st, 2018

I raised with the Leader of the House, the important work that police support staff do after the Member for Parliament for Walsall North, who voted to cut police budgets — the west midlands has had to face a cut of £145 million since 2010 — said that £10 million was being spent on “back-office staff”. I asked the Leader of the House to ensure that an appropriate apology will be made and perhaps schedule a debate on what police support staff actually do.

 

Below is my speech in full:

 

I am really worried about parliamentary sovereignty. I note that the Leader of the House has not announced business beyond 12 March, but let me help her and the Government. I understand that the spring statement will be on 13 March, which was announced by the Treasury in a fancy infographic. I am sorry that the Leader of the House could not even announce the spring statement.

 

There was also no announcement of whether the Prime Minister is coming to the House to make a statement after her very important speech on Brexit. She chooses to make her speech in another location and not here, to us. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Prime Minister will make a statement here? Can she confirm whether the speech will be in Aberdeen or somewhere else?

 

I see the Government may have a new policy, called “pure illusion”—it sounds like a new perfume or a paint shade. European Council President Donald Tusk knows about it, and that is even before we have debated it. While we welcome him to the UK, I am sure he will want to remind the Government again that it is cherry blossom time coming up, not cherry-picking time. What about the U-turn on transition rights that was whispered about yesterday? Is someone—anyone—coming to the House to explain it, so that we can ask questions about it?

 

A written statement was made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) on behalf of the House of Commons Commission about restoration and renewal. He said that the sponsor body and the delivery authority need primary legislation to be introduced. Can the Leader of the House say when that legislation is likely to come before the House? Will it be next year, the year after or the year after that?

 

Last week, I raised two statutory instruments that had been prayed against on the eligibility of free school meals for those on universal credit and abolishing nursing bursaries for postgraduate nursing students. We are now rapidly eating into the 40 days. Could the Leader of the House make time for those to be debated? The shadow Education Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), has prayed against three more statutory instruments: No. 120 and No. 146 on childcare vouchers, and the School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2018, on the national funding formula.

 

What about our next Opposition day? We have not had sight of that, and no one seems to be talking to us about when we are likely to have it. What are the Government scared of? It is the same with the Report stage of the Trade Bill and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill. I know that Members are so keen to debate new clause 5, because the country wants to know what the position is on their jobs and living standards. There goes the sovereignty of Parliament, tossed aside again.

 

The same day that Ministers were at Chequers, the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) said: “Discipline has completely broken down in the parliamentary party, so no one tells anyone off,”— that may be a surprise to some Members at the back— “because there’s no power anywhere.”

 

When the Conservative party does have power, it does not want to use it against money launderers. In a point of order yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) asked for guidance on the handling of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Committee. The Programming Sub-Committee decided that it wanted clause 1 to be taken after clause 18, but when the Committee got to clause 18, debate was stopped immediately, after 25 minutes. Could the Leader of the House ensure that there will be adequate time to debate the 40 amendments and clause 1, which is the Magnitsky clause and will strengthen our sanctions regime?

 

Private Members’ Bills are now backing up. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), the Stalking Protection Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), and the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) are all supported by the Government but have not been given a date for Committee stage.

 

Today the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse—a very important matter—publishes its first report on serious child abuse. Thousands of British children were deported by their own Government to the other side of the world and they suffered horrific sexual abuse. The inquiry will not hold a press conference on its findings, but it will publish the significant report online, and there is a written statement today. Given the scale and significance of this injustice, and the hurt suffered by so many, will the Government commit to making time for a statement at the earliest opportunity?

 

At Prime Minister’s questions last week, the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), who voted to cut police budgets—the west midlands has had to face a cut of £145 million since 2010—said that £10 million was being spent on “back-office staff”. The West Midlands police and crime commissioner has confirmed to me that the staff are in fact police support staff and are upset at the use of that pejorative term. They answer emergency 999 calls, investigate child abuse cases and carry out forensics. I hope that the Leader of the House will ensure that an appropriate apology will be made by the hon. Gentleman and perhaps schedule a debate on what police support staff actually do.

 

We welcome back the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire). He and the Prime Minister both agreed that early referral to a tertiary consultant was extremely important to save lives. The shadow Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), made a point of order yesterday requesting an urgent statement on why clinical commissioning groups are paying GPs not to make referrals. The Health Secretary needs to explain that policy and stop that alarming practice immediately.

 

I join the Leader of the House in saying that this is the 21st World Book Day. Walsall South has lost three libraries. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) will host the World Book Day celebrations in the Atlee suite between 10 am and 3 pm, when we can all go and read a book or recite a poem.

 

I, too, want to try my Welsh—I apologise to every Welsh person here—and say dydd gŵyl Dewi hapus. Happy St David’s day.