Business Questions 14 September 2017

I raised the following questions with the Leader of the House:

I thank the Leader of the House. I share with her an understanding of the difficulties people face. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) lost a baby, so in our family we know exactly what that is like.

Yesterday was absolutely jaw-dropping. I heard the numerous points of order at the end of our first Opposition day, for which we had waited for so long. It became clear that the Government had cynically decided not to vote for or against the motion. Madam Deputy Speaker said that the matter should be raised at business questions, so I am raising it here. The House voted to lift the cap on nurses’ pay and to revoke the rise in tuition fees, which means that students and nurses have a legitimate expectation that that is the intention of Parliament. We would like to know how that will be enacted.

It is clear, and has been said on social media, that this is what the Government are going to do with every Opposition day motion. I would like you, Mr Speaker, to have a meeting with the business managers to work out exactly how to take this forward, because it makes Parliament look ridiculous. On Tuesday, an hon. Member read from the confidence and supply agreement. Will the Leader of the House publish that document and schedule a debate on it, given that Government lawyers have said that it “will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation”, and that “No timetable has been set for the making of such payments”?

On Tuesday, the House debated proposals relating to Standing Committees. If the Government truly believe in parliamentary democracy, all those Committees should have an equal number of places for the Government and Opposition, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) pointed out, so that we can all work together in the interests of this country. To support Parliament, will the Leader of the House please commit to equal numbers on all Public Bill Committees? Otherwise, it will look like the Government are afraid of debate, accountability and transparency. This has been a bad week for parliamentary democracy.

Moreover, week after week, the Leader of the House never responds to any of my questions. She did not respond to my question about how many statutory instruments would follow from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The White Paper says between 800 and 1,000. Has she had any discussions about timetabling, and what resources will be provided following the Procedure Committee report published on 2 May? She also said last week that the UN report on the disabled did not accurately reflect the evidence given. Will she please schedule a debate on the issue, following the point of order by the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams)?

The Leader of the House said that the NHS was not privatised. Will she explain why NHS Professionals was being marketed for sale? Following the persistence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), who asked the National Audit Office for a report and tabled 17 written parliamentary questions, the Government announced in a written statement that NHS Professionals would remain in public hands. Now we see that profit-driven hospitals are seeing a 15% to 25% increase in their profits year on year, at the same time as patients are being denied care as a result of long waiting times; the Government’s abolition of the 18-week target means that people are having to pay £14,000 for hip and other operations.

Yesterday, the Back British Farming campaign came to the House. The farmers are asking for access to existing markets, in or out of the EU. When will the White Paper on trade be published? A recent survey has found that 66% of people believe that leaving the EU without a mutually agreed deal would be bad for Britain. Will the Government publish an impact statement, therefore, on what would happen to the country’s economy if we left without a deal?

This week, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the vote that established the Scottish Parliament. As leader of the Labour party, John Smith committed a future Labour Government to establishing that Parliament. Robin Cook and Robert Maclennan looked at the constitutional issues and put flesh on that policy. Donald Dewar was the first First Minister of the Scottish Parliament. All were great exponents of parliamentary democracy, as is the Father of the House, so there are many good role models to show what Parliament can do.

Finally, I congratulate all the new Members who made their first speeches in the House this week: my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) and for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden), the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) and my hon. Friends the Members for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill). We look forward to their expertise in Parliament. I also join the Leader of the House in thanking all the staff. It seems amazing that after the break they managed to get us running in smooth order for these two weeks. I wish everyone a very happy conference recess.