Business Questions 1 December 2016

I thank the Leader of the House for those dates. I press him to be a little bolder, because he still has to come up with one date—for the summer recess. If he could do that for next time, it would be great.


Members want a vote on the boundary Bill. What progress has been made on the money resolution for the Bill?


On this day in 1942, the Beveridge report was published. It showed us what it meant to be a caring society in which people are supported when they most need it as a safety net. Saturday 3 December is International Day of Persons with Disability, but the Government have still not confirmed whether they will end the humiliating and harmful reassessments of people with long-term conditions who have applied for personal independence payments. May we have a statement, following yesterday’s report from the National Audit Office showing that sanctions on welfare payments have been handed out without any evidence that they work? The figures for 2015 show that £132 million was held back in benefits; £35 million was paid in hardship; and the cost of administering the scheme was £50 million. It is going to be worse next year, because the Government have lowered the benefit cap. The NAO concluded that there was no evidence that sanctions provide value for money for the British taxpayer.


The Leader of the House mentioned the debate on science that was arranged by the Backbench Business Committee. I ask the Government to make a further commitment to UK science—more than just an injection of funding. The Prime Minister recently said that our competitors are not standing still but investing heavily in research and development. On UK science and research, we are standing still—frozen by Brexit. Damage is done to networks of collaboration. Over 60% of the UK’s international co-authored papers involve partners in the EU, so may we have an urgent debate in Government time on support to UK science and research to ensure that the promised £2 billion will protect those collaborations and networks that form the foundation of world-class science? This is about preserving a shared culture and intellectual heritage.


We also celebrate a Labour Government commitment, made on 1 December 2001, to keeping museums free. On the 10th anniversary, research carried out found that audiences became more diverse after the introduction of free admissions. The number of visitors from ethnic minority backgrounds to Department for Culture, Media and Sport-sponsored museums rose by 177.5%. That all adds to our education—widening our horizons; fulfilling our potential; understanding each other and the world around us; and providing us with lifelong learning.


We also celebrate last month—we are only a day out—the birth of Jennie Lee on 3 November and, sadly, on 16 November her death. She was a fantastic Member of this House, who introduced the Open University—another Labour Government success. However, the number of part-time students aged 21 and over has declined by 57%. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and the Open University have shown that the lost part-time students correlate to the highest participating age group in the UK labour force. That not only affects social mobility but makes it vital to fill the UK skills gap, driving up international competitiveness and productivity.


This Government are not a Government of education, and neither are they a Government of law and order, with 47 magistrates courts shut and 45 to follow in 2017. These courts deal with 90% of criminal cases. Many magistrates are resigning—75 of them over the issue of criminal courts charges. Neither are they a Government of business. Business wants transitional arrangements, but we know from the memo that was shown to the whole world that the Government have said no to such arrangements after Brexit.


This is not the Government of unity. The Prime Minister has her three backing singers, like the Three Degrees: the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union—whose Department is now known as DExEU—and the Secretary of State for International Trade, who, apparently, is allowed to deal only with international trade outside the EU, the rest being done by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.


We also need an urgent debate, which was promised by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. The Government cannot just have turf wars; they must also deal with the sovereignty of Parliament and accountability to the House.


This is not the Government of the national health service, either. It is a case of “Social care crisis? What crisis?” Only recently, NHS England lost a case in the High Court. Today is world AIDS day. The drug Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by 90%, and it can now be commissioned by the NHS as a result of that ruling.


Both you and the Leader of the House, Mr Speaker, have received a letter from the World Wildlife Fund about Earth Hour. May I ask the Leader of the House to use his best offices to ensure that the lights in the Norman Shaw South building can be turned off? They have been on constantly since last December. We in Norman Shaw South want to take part in Earth Hour day.