Business Questions 14 December 2017

I remembered those who died at Glenfell Tower and asked why the Prime Minister has not, 6 months later, failed to meet her own three week target to rehouse everybody affected by the tragedy.

Here is my speech at Business Questions this week:

I thank the Leader of the House for the future business. I note that she has only gone as far as 8 January, so I am unsure whether the date for the restoration and renewal debate has also been fixed for the 11th, or if it is going to be moved.

They say that good things come in threes. First, tomorrow is Save the Children Christmas jumper day, and I hope we will all be wearing one. Secondly, we congratulate the new Senate member for Alabama, the Democrat Doug Jones, on his victory for politics being about hope, not division. Thirdly, of course, there is the matter of yesterday: we are very pleased that, finally, Parliament has been recognised as being sovereign. The amendment brings back to Parliament a final vote on the deal so that the UK Parliament, just like every other Parliament in the EU, can have a say. It enables us to do our job. Mr Speaker, you may have thought that three was the magic number, but actually it is four. Before anything happens to those MPs who voted to bring sovereignty back to Parliament, let us remember that there are many Maastricht rebels still sitting in this House.

Following on from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, there will be many statutory instruments. The Government made the concession of accepting amendments from the Procedure Committee, so when will the new sifting committee be set up, and will the Leader of the House ensure that its chair comes from the Opposition?

Mr Speaker, I heard what you said about contempt in relation to the sectoral analyses and impact assessments. I have seen the documents, but we almost had to sign a note to say that we would not reveal what is in them. It is unacceptable that democratically elected Members of Parliament cannot share that information with our constituents. The Leader of the House said last week that only 16 Members and Peers had seen them. Any commercial information contained in the documents may or may not be excluded. If they are just matters of fact, I see no reason why Members cannot read the documents in the Library and why they cannot be published. I am not sure if I can reveal this, but many of the footnotes come from the Office for National Statistics, so they are, in any event, in the public domain.

Having undertaken the biggest reorganisation of the NHS, the Government have now embarked on yet another, with sustainability and transformation plans. If that were not enough, they now intend to bring forward regulations to support the setting up of accountable care organisations, an idea imported from the United States. It is not clear how the ACOs will be accountable to the public, what the levels of private sector involvement will be, and what the implications will be for NHS staff. We have had CCGs, STPs and now ACOs—they are becoming the Government’s acronyms of incompetence. The shadow Secretary of State for Health has written to the Leader of the House about the matter, and I ask again: is it the Government’s intention to lay the regulations before the House in the new year, and if so, when? Will the right hon. Lady reassure the House that there will be adequate time for a debate and a vote?

We have a Government who cannot make a decision. We have a new industrial strategy but no decision on the Swansea tidal lagoon. After a review by one of the Government’s own former Ministers, we had a letter on 20 November signed by 100 businesses. Labour Members have secured Adjournment debates and asked oral and written questions on this matter. The latest response is that a decision will be made in due course. Will the Leader of the House please say what that means, or is it the case that the Government do not want to invest in Labour Wales?

I turn to Opposition day motions and how information is dealt with. It is crucial that the Opposition and Members are able to hold the Government to account. In a written statement on 26 October, the Leader of the House said that the relevant Minister would respond to Opposition day motions in no later than 12 weeks. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), the shadow Secretary of State for Education, made a point of order last week. She said she had received a response—a written statement published on the very last day—in relation to the motion on tuition fees, but it had no bearing whatever on the motion, and there was no opportunity for the Opposition to question Ministers. Will the Leader of the House meet me and perhaps discuss with the House authorities how we can take this forward so that we can have proper information with which to hold the Government to account? That is our job.

I would like to mention the passing away of the former MP Jimmy Hood. He was 69 years old. He was a Member for 28 years and a good servant of the House. He served as Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, as well as being a member of the Panel of Chairs for 14 years. He served the House well and we honour his memory, just as I join the Leader of the House in honouring the memory of those who died at Grenfell Tower. There was a memorial here yesterday, which was attended by you, Mr Speaker, and today’s memorial service at St Paul’s cathedral will be attended by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. But, the shadow Housing Minister has asked the Prime Minister why, after she said that she had

“fixed a deadline of three weeks for everybody affected to be found a home nearby”,

that has not taken place.

Mr Speaker, as you lit the Hanukkah candle yesterday in Speaker’s House, candles will be lit at St Paul’s any minute now to remember the innocent dead. One minute people were watching television or doing their homework; the next, they were dead. The light has gone out of their lives, but the flame of remembrance will continue to burn as we remember them today and always.