- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
In yesterday’s confidence vote debate the Prime Minister said: “when you have worked hard all your life, you will get a good pension and security and dignity in your old age”. Not if you are a WASPI woman, and not if you are a couple where only one of you is over pensionable age, because a written statement on Monday showed that there would be a £7,000 pension cut for the poorest elderly couples. I called on the Prime Minister to come to the House and correct the record.
You can read my speech in full below:
May I associate myself with the Leader of the House’s good wishes to you, Mr Speaker? I am not quite sure about the bit about the fluff in the ear. I do not know whether she suspects that you are not listening to what she says.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week. I am pleased that she said that the Prime Minister would make a statement on Monday. The Prime Minister said that the motion would be amendable. Can the Leader of the House confirm that it will be, and can she also confirm what the Government Chief Whip said when he jumped up to the Dispatch Box—he said that 90 minutes was not enough to debate such an important issue and that the Government would provide reasonable time to hold the debate and vote by 30 January?
This is the first Government to be held in contempt of Parliament. The Prime Minister has had a vote of no confidence from within her own party. There was a vote of no confidence in the Government yesterday, which the Government won because they have a confidence and supply agreement. Yet again, however, a record was broken: 432 hon. and right hon. Members voted against the Prime Minister’s deal. That was the biggest defeat of a Government in history.
The Leader of the House said in an interview on BBC Radio 4: “The Government has been collaborating across the House ever since the beginning of this Parliament.”
Can she say with whom? The Leader of the House also said that the Prime Minister will be “speaking with senior parliamentarians”. Can she say with whom—can she publish a list of those favoured ones, or is this another case of divide and rule? The Leader of the House will note that the House voted against a no-deal scenario. That must be off the table, so could she confirm that that is off the table in any starting point for discussions?
This Opposition and Parliament have been working on behalf of the people. Pressure from Her Majesty’s Opposition led to a meaningful vote, a term coined by the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), and it took a Humble Address for Parliament to be given the impact assessments.
How can we have confidence in the referendum when the donor of the largest political donation in history is being investigated by the National Crime Agency? The leave campaign has been found to have broken electoral law, whistleblowers and journalists have raised alarms about the legality of the campaign, and the previous Government said no analysis of the impact should be given out by our independent civil service.
Yes, the people have voted, but it is our job as elected representatives to look at the evidence of the impact on the country, and not rely on the campaign rhetoric, which we now know to be based on falsehoods. We must rely on the evidence and the facts. So can the Leader of the House confirm whether she will move the business motion to extend article 50 in time? I know friends of the Leader of the House have said she might resign if she had to do that.
The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) asked the DExEU Minister to explain why the Government thought it appropriate as a matter of law to proceed under regulation 32, for reasons of urgency, extreme urgency and unforeseeable events, when they handed the contract of £14 million to Seaborne Freight, a company with no ships, no ports and no employees. Can the Leader of the House publish a list of all the contracts that have been awarded under this regulation by any Government Department?
As of last Friday, 73% of the time available for the Government to lay their Brexit statutory instruments has lapsed, but only 51% of SIs have been laid. A previous shadow Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Lord Cunningham, said in the House of Lords that there is a Brexit SI that is 630 pages long, 2.54 kg in weight and includes 11 disparate subjects. The Government are clearly doing all they can to avoid proper scrutiny. Baroness Smith, shadow Leader in the Lords, says that she holds both of them in both hands so she does not have to go to the gym. Can the Leader of the House update the House on the progress of the Brexit SIs that need to be laid before the UK exits the EU?
In yesterday’s confidence vote debate the Prime Minister said: “when you have worked hard all your life, you will get a good pension and security and dignity in your old age”.
Not if you are a WASPI woman, and not if you are a couple where only one of you is over pensionable age, because a written statement on Monday showed that there would be a £7,000 pension cut for the poorest elderly couples. The Prime Minister said: “where growing up you will get the best possible education, not because your parents can afford to pay for it but because that is what every local school provides”.
Not according to new analysis by the House of Commons Library, showing that total education spending, including spending on schools and colleges, in the UK has fallen by over £7 billion in real terms since 2010. The Prime Minister said: “where, when you have children of your own, you will be able to rely on our world-class NHS”.
But not if you are on NHS waiting lists, which have grown to 4.3 million. The number of people waiting longer than two months for cancer treatment has almost doubled since 2010 and £7 billion has been cut from adult social care since 2010, leaving 1.4 million elderly and vulnerable people without care and support. The Prime Minister needs to come to the House and correct the record. It is no wonder that, in his speech, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs focused on the Leader of the Opposition rather than on the confidence in his own Government.
May I also ask the Leader of the House if she will in principle talk to the usual channels about proxy voting? I do not want to discuss individual cases, just the principle of proxy voting. What is the timetable for coming back to the House and ensuring that is put in place?
The Leader of the House mentioned the Holocaust Memorial Day debate. The book will be available to sign next week; it was opened this week. On Monday, it is Martin Luther King Day, whose words we must remember: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all”.
I hope that we all heed those words as we work towards tolerance, mutual respect, justice and opportunity and as we work to find a solution.