I raised with the Leader of the House the debate on postgraduate student nurses’ bursaries which the Government plans to abolish, despite them being so important in upskilling people and dealing with the skills shortage in the NHS.
You can read my speech in full below:
I thank the Leader of the House and associate myself with her comments about all those public servants out there. I am not sure what is happening in Northamptonshire, but I do not think they are having elections. I also thank her for presenting the forthcoming business, but we still get only a week and a day. As I am sure she will agree, it is very beneficial to Members to know what is coming up, because they want to prepare.
I wanted to make a point of order about this, Mr Speaker, but I did not want to misuse the system: many people are upset about what the Leader of the House said last week about the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. At business questions, she accused the Opposition of being “tardy” in making a request for the debate on the statutory instrument “having prayed against the SI one month after it was laid.” In reality, however, it was prayed against well within time. She also wrongly claimed that it had been “too late to schedule a debate within the praying period without changing last week’s business”. But she and I both know that we have done that many times, and sometimes I have been monosyllabic in agreeing with the change of business.
At Justice questions last week the Lord Chancellor said that the Government are waiting for information from the Labour party. Will the Leader of the House please correct the record and say that the Opposition had prayed against the regulations, and that there was nothing else that we needed to do? They were prayed against on 22 March, and the praying period ended on 20 April. The Opposition were waiting for action from the Government. She will know that time stops on a statutory instrument when the House is not sitting for more than four days, so perhaps there was some confusion about that. Will the Leader of the House please correct the record and say that that had nothing to do with the Opposition?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) has prayed against the Immigration (Guidance on Detention of Vulnerable Persons) Regulations 2018, No. 410, and the Detention Centre (Amendment) Rules 2018, No. 411. When will that debate be scheduled? The statutory instruments were laid two days before the Easter recess.
It seems that the Government are playing KerPlunk with our money resolutions, pulling out Bills at will—[Interruption.] Hon. Members remember it! The Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill has got its money resolution, but there is nothing about the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill, which was ahead of that Bill. When will we have a money resolution on the boundaries Bill?
I thank the Leader of the House for her letter on the statutory instrument tracker. She has made good progress on that, but the Hansard Society got in touch with me and said that it took them about seven years to get a unique statutory instrument tracker. It is very good and people have used it, so I wonder if there could be co-ordination between the two so we can do what you want to do, Mr Speaker, which is to make the House open, accessible and transparent to everyone.
I do not think the Leader mentioned the debate on nurses’ bursaries on Wednesday. I hope that is still on, because it is a vital debate. We are against the abolition of postgraduate nurses’ bursaries, which are so important to upskilling people and dealing with the skills shortage. A debate would be timely, because a Macmillan Cancer Support report published on Monday revealed that hospitals in England have vacancies for more than 400 cancer nursing specialists. Macmillan’s chief of nursing, Dr Karen Roberts, is concerned that cancer nurses are being run ragged and that some patients may not be receiving the specialist care they need. We all know someone who has been through the whole process—I know of two friends—and cancer nursing specialists are absolutely fantastic when people are going through such a difficult time. They need help and support, and we cannot have them doing two or three jobs at the same time. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the problems facing the NHS cancer workforce?
The breast cancer screening scandal is taking place on the Health Secretary’s watch, and according to the King’s Fund, there is a £2.5 billion funding gap in social care. There has been no statement on the collapse of Allied Healthcare, which is one of the biggest providers for the elderly and the vulnerable. We need to know what impact assessment has been made, because the company is currently in a voluntary arrangement that means that it does not have to pay into the pension fund. May we have an urgent statement on that next week?
Last week I raised the article in The House magazine on restoration and renewal, which announced that the shadow sponsor board should have 12 members, with five external members, including the chair, but a majority of parliamentarians representing the main parties of both Houses. External members of the board will be appointed and a former first civil servant commissioner will chair the panel. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could say when that decision was made and who made it. She will know that the Olympic sponsor body was chaired by the noble Baroness Jowell, so there was always accountability to Parliament. Representatives of all the main parties chair Select Committees and carry out their roles with distinction. A non-parliamentarian chairing the sponsor body is not recommended in the joint report and was not in the motion, so will she please make a statement to update the House on what has actually been agreed on restoration and renewal?
The Leader of the House may have some influence over the members of the Brexit Cabinet Committee, so will she suggest that, instead of just talking in that Committee and positioning themselves as the next Prime Minister, they actually visit the borders in Ireland and Dover? They could practice their power stance—you can’t see it, Mr Speaker, but I am doing it right now and it is quite scary—and we could enjoy our bank holiday. The Leader of the House and I have scheduled a sunny day for the spring bank holiday—we wish everyone a very happy and restful weekend.