Business Question 17 May 2018

Posted on May 17th, 2018

I asked the Leader of the House when the Withdrawal Bill will be brought back to the House of Commons and when the customs Bill will come to the House on Report and Third Reading. The animal welfare Bill, the immigration Bill and the fisheries Bill have not yet been published, and I also asked when the agriculture Bill will be published. There are 10 months to go before we leave the European Union, and the Government are still negotiating about the negotiations. This Government is incompetent and divided.

 

You can read my speech below:

 

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, but I note, again, that we have only four days of it. Will she tell us what we are doing on 4 June please? She knows that the Procedure Committee has produced a report, “Proxy voting and parental absence”, and we look forward to its being discussed. When will we have time to debate it?

 

I have to raise breaches of conventions of the House and the way we work together based on trust. The Parliament website states: “Money resolutions… are normally put to the House for agreement immediately after the Bill has passed its Second reading in the Commons.” I asked the Leader of the House last week what was abnormal about the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill—the boundaries Bill being promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan)—that it should not have received a money resolution after its Second Reading, but she did not reply, so I will try again. I understand that consideration of the Bill in Committee was adjourned again. Have the Government decided not to follow convention any more, and is the Parliament website wrong?

 

The Leader of the House has just announced that the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill will be given its money resolution on Monday. That Bill was the 94th Bill presented in the Session. The Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill was the ninth Bill presented, but it still has not had its money resolution. Why are these Bills being taken out of order? Are the Government now going against custom and practice, and deciding which Bill is worthy? Will the Leader of the House give us a reason today or in writing later?

 

There was another even more alarming issue this week, as raised yesterday in a point of order by the Opposition Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown). The Statement by the Secretary of State for Transport was wrong on two counts: first, Her Majesty’s Opposition were not given any notice of the statement, which might well be in breach of the ministerial code; secondly, the statement was given on an Opposition day.

 

It took great pressure—from an Opposition day debate and a petition—for the Government to announce a U-turn on Grenfell. In a written statement last Friday, it was announced that two extra experts would sit on the inquiry panel. Scheduling the statement yesterday was a huge discourtesy to the 71 bereaved families who were waiting for that debate. The bereaved just want to get on with their lives, rather than having constantly to lobby the Government for justice.

 

Will the Leader of the House, as the representative of the House in the Cabinet, raise this breach of convention with the Cabinet and update the House as to whether statements will no longer be given in Opposition time and that we will be given advanced notice of statements?

 

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office said that she is “very pleased and grateful to the House of Lords for the consideration that it has given to the EU withdrawal Bill”. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the amendments have now been agreed, and that the Bill will be brought back to this House next week?

 

I ask again about the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which is known as the customs Bill. When will it come to the House on Report and Third Reading? The animal welfare Bill, the immigration Bill and the fisheries Bill have not yet been published. I know that the Leader of the House is interested in the agriculture White Paper, which has been published, so will she tell us when the agriculture Bill will be published?

 

We now have Sub-Committee A and Sub-Committee B, which are negotiating. Thank goodness we have a free press, because we now know that Conservative Members have been walking into No. 10 and the Prime Minister is also negotiating—that is Sub-Committee C. There are 10 months to go before we leave the European Union, and the Government are still negotiating about the negotiations. With the Scottish Parliament voting against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, our island’s story has become a re-run of the Picts and the Scots, the Angles and the Scots, or perhaps the EVEL and the Scots.

 

This Government are incompetent and divided. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is negotiating on a customs arrangement instead of responding to the Joint Select Committee report on Carillion. The report, which will be presented later, said that the Government failed to spot the risks because of their “semi-professional part-time” system of oversight. When will we have an updated statement on the fall-out from Carillion’s collapse?

 

It is National Epilepsy Week, so will the Leader of the House use her good offices to ask the Home Secretary whether he has signed the licence for Alfie Dingley’s medication? The House will remember that Alfie had 150 seizures a month, but the medicine brought that figure down to one.

 

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Baroness Jowell, who served 23 years in this House and two years in the other place—a glittering career in public service. This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week, so we should also mention that she was a former officer of Mind, the mental health charity. The House paid tribute to her, but most of us will remember her kindness to us personally. She sent an email to every single person who stood at the Bar of the House of Lords to hear her final speech. She sought me out when I was a new Member in 2010 to give me some support. Her achievements will live on. She used her time in this place not to destroy other people’s lives, but to make a huge difference to them, and she has shown that in the change that she has made. No one will ever forget how our country was brought together in 2012.

 

Finally, we all saw Prince Harry make that long walk behind his mother’s coffin. Now he will walk down the aisle of St George’s Chapel. Diana, Princess of Wales would have been proud of him. We wish Prince Harry and Meghan Markle all the very best for their wedding and their life together.