Business Questions 15 December 2016

At Business questions , I raised the issue of debates on leaving the EU and its effect on Young people. My speech is below:

May I press the Leader of the House yet again for the date of the summer recess? People are absolutely desperate to print those little calendars. We do need that date.


May I also ask the Leader of the House for a date for the restoration and renewal report? I understand that a date has been floating around—people have mentioned it to me in passing. Can he enlighten all of us and perhaps let me know whether the resolution that is to be put before the House on this issue will be in the form of votable motions, whether all three options will be put to the House and whether Members can table further resolutions?


When will the Bus Services Bill arrive? It has the flashing sign, “Due”, but it has been due for a year now. It would be quite helpful to know that.


Did you know, Mr Speaker, that 21 years ago today—no, not “Sgt. Pepper”—European leaders announced that their new currency would be known as the euro? It was a Tory Government who took us into the European exchange rate mechanism—and out again—but a Labour Government who defined the five economic tests before we joined the euro. That is why we will not give the Government a blank cheque on article 50; we want to see the framework for negotiating. We know the vital statistics following the referendum—52% leave, 48% remain, and 28% did not vote—so we need to find a way forward that encompasses everybody’s view.


To Labour Members, the position is clear: the UK voted to leave the EU, and our job is to ensure that we shape that exit. We need to shape the exit to ensure that jobs, the economy and living standards are our priorities; that trade and services with and to the EU are not damaged; and that we preserve all the good things about our place in the world, acting in concert with other countries to protect the vulnerable against bullies. Negotiating a good trade agreement will help the UK to negotiate with other countries to preserve the rights that were secured for our workforce, who have powered this economy through knowledge, skills and creativity by hand and by brain. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that between January and March there are discussions through the usual channels on a proper form for debate? Many Select Committees are producing reports. We do not want the public to be confused and we do not want to get into post-truth debates: we want a proper form of motion and proper recommendations. We need all that in order to shape the Government’s thinking before article 50 is triggered.


We need that debate because there is confusion in the Government. On Friday last week, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said that he is “not interested” in transitional arrangements. On Monday in the Treasury Committee, the Chancellor said that the Government would likely seek a transitional deal in order to avoid disruption that would risk Britain’s “financial stability”. At PMQs the Prime Minister was very emphatic in saying that we are leaving the EU. Yet Downing Street says that it may consider EU associate citizenship that will allow people to travel and work in the EU, and presumably we need to offer reciprocal arrangements. May we have a statement on the correct position?


We need to look at the effect of leaving the EU on young people and to debate how these policies will affect them, because 75% of those aged between 18 and 24 voted to remain. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that exiting the EU will herald the biggest pay squeeze for 70 years, with younger people hardest hit. Since 2007, the median income for those aged 22 to 30 has dropped by 7%. Inflation is already going up, and the cost of food and other necessities is rising. Will the Government look at implementing the real living wage based on the cost of living, which is £8.45 per hour, or £9.75 in London. That is not the Government’s living wage of £7.50, which will come in in April 2017?


At PMQs, many right hon. and hon. Members mentioned the music single for Jo Cox. Let me place on record my thanks to MP4, who did a fantastic job of organising and playing on it: my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), and the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight). Others who took part included Ian Cawsey and Mary Macleod, formerly of this House, who came back to sing, Steve Harley, KT Tunstall, the brilliant community choir, members of the Royal Opera House, and many colleagues. Jo’s family will have to face their first Christmas without her.


Many Members in all parts of the House are facing hostility. They have had to endure court cases. They have to deal with all this with courage. Will the Leader of the House and other Members try, on a cross-party basis, to find out the nature of and evidence for what is happening to our colleagues, because it is huge, and encourage them to report it. Perhaps we could have a streamlined way of ensuring that this matter is dealt with? Will he also look at what is happening when Members agree a package to keep their offices secure, because apparently they are not being implemented?


I do not know what the Leader of the House will give the Prime Minister for Christmas, but may I suggest a couple of books? The first is the autobiography of the former Prime Minister, John Major, in which he writes:


“Calling three of my colleagues, or a number of my colleagues”

a very non-parliamentary word

“was absolutely unforgivable. My only excuse is that it was true.”


The second is “Team of Rivals”, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet, three of whom had previously run against him.


Finally, Mr Speaker, may I wish you, your family and your office, the Leader of the House, his suave deputy and those in his office, the Clerks, the Doorkeepers and everyone who has made me so welcome, from the cleaning and catering staff, to the postal workers, and all right hon. and hon. Members a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year?