Business Questions 12 July 2018

The Minority Government is abusing its power. It is an absolute outrage that an Opposition Day scheculed for next Wednesday has been taken away. The White Paper that was supposed to be published today was given to the press at 9am, yet was not made available to Members until 1pm. The Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Exiting the European Union Secretary got the White Paper only half an hour before the Secretary of State’s statement.

You can read my speech in full below:

Valerie Vaz: I am not quite sure whether I should thank the Leader of the House for the future business, because it is an absolute outrage that an Opposition day that was allocated for Wednesday has been taken away. Will the Leader of the House please explain why we have lost our Opposition day? This is a cynical move by the Government—a Government who are in a minority—and an abuse of power. I am apoplectic with rage, and there is more to come.

The White Paper that was supposed to be published today was given to the press at 9 am, in lockdown. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) went to the Vote Office and was told that it would not be available until 1 pm. There is to be a statement, and Members will have to come to the House to speak about the White Paper. Worse still, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Exiting the European Union Secretary will get the White Paper only half an hour before the statement. This is outrageous. I know this is a back-of-the-envelope Government; that is the business they are in—they are certainly not in the business of a democratic Parliament and allowing Parliament to decide what it should ask the Secretary of State. We are not in a position to do that. This is an outrage. Will the Leader of the House make a statement either later today or on Monday explaining why there was this shambles about the White Paper? It has taken the Government two years—[Interruption.] Would you like me to sit down, Mr Speaker? You look poised to say something.

Mr Speaker: As is not uncommon, I was just conferring with the chief procedural adviser, the Clerk of the House, but I am now all ears. I am always listening to the hon. Lady, and this morning is no exception; please continue.

Valerie Vaz: Thank you, Mr Speaker; I wish the Government were all ears, but they are not. It has taken them two years to agree a position, and now it seems that there may be two White Papers: the ex-DExEU Secretary apparently produced a White Paper at Chequers. So we need to know about this; we need to have a proper debate on whether the Government’s White Paper is the settled position. This is typical of the new DExEU Secretary; welcome to his world—authoritarian and cynical.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said he hoped that the agriculture Bill would be published before the recess. Will it? And when will the migration and fisheries and the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bills be published?

As the rest of the world is moving forward, the Government are moving backwards. There is a remake of “Oceans 8” with women in the lead, but not for the reshuffle: the new positions are all filled by men, and we need to congratulate, I suppose, the heckler-in-chief the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) who is now a DExEU Minister.

The Leader of the House may want to correct the record. In a BBC “Newsnight” interview on Tuesday she said that as Leader of the House she took the withdrawal Bill through Parliament. I think it is clear that she did not: it was the DExEU team that did that. She also said that “who we should all be pointing our guns on is those negotiators in the EU”. Will she retract that inflammatory statement, particularly as this is a negotiation, not a battle?

The Leader of the House seems to be picking up the inflammatory statements of the President of the United States. As he lands in the UK, children are still being reunited with their parents. CNN has footage of reunion between a child and her mother after being separated for 55 days and toddlers going to court without representation; we are reminded what a cruel policy this is. The person who instigated that policy will be meeting our sovereign. And let us also remember that that person is not a native American. He is not one of the First Nations; he was an immigrant himself.

As this seems still to be unclear following the urgent question of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), will the Leader of the House place in the Library the total costs of policing the visit, for all the places, including under the devolved Administrations, that the President is going to for his business interests and leisure?

We know that the President has had private discussions with various Members about our leaving the EU, but there is more work to be done. This is a complicated process; it is not just “yes” or “no” on a ballot paper. According to the House of Commons Library, the UK will leave up to 1,256 international agreements to which the EU is party, and the Financial Times has reported that the UK will need to renegotiate 759 separate EU agreements with 168 countries. The International Trade Committee said that the number of EU trade and trade-related agreements “appears to be a matter of some uncertainty” and warned of trade with 70 nations “falling off a cliff edge” if the Government did not act quickly enough to roll over the EU trade deals. May we have a debate to update the House on what the Government have in place to ensure that the UK’s international agreements continue to apply as we leave the EU?

Further to the urgent question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), may we have an urgent debate on an apparent change of Government policy and whether the hostile environment policy has ended? It seems that we only found out after Kieran Trippier’s goal—and I join the Leader of the House in thanking the England team; we dared to hope.

I also thank one of our amazing public servants, Sir David Behan, who stepped down as chief executive of the Care Quality Commission yesterday. He served six years in post and had a distinguished career in the health and social care sectors spanning over 40 years. He took over the CQC and managed to turn it around; I know many hon. Members will receive alerts on any institutions inspected by it, and they are very helpful. We wish him well, and hope that he can use his expertise to train further public servants.

All of us in my office had an outing to see that amazing moment in history, the fly-past that took place this week. On behalf of the Opposition, I want to wish the RAF and all who have served in it a very happy 100 years. Finally, we have some good news. The first parliamentary baby has been born. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) has given birth to Elijah, and we send our good wishes to her and to Ben and Eli. We hope that Eli and all the other babies will enjoy the baby blimp that is soon going to be flying over London.