Business Questions 18 July 2019

At Business Questions on Thursday 18 July 2019, I called for an update for the House following the urgent question regarding Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe yesterday. As Nazanin said, she went to visit her parents and has ended up in an asylum.

You can read my speech in full below:

I thank the Leader of the House. I do not know what he said to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), but he is not in his place. I think it is because he would not allow the hon. Gentleman and the rest of MP4 to get into his car. However, we are pleased to see that the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) is present. I believe that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is, in fact, on a Select Committee trip.

There is one week to go, and the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) has worked his charm. He has usurped the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, and arranged a pre-recess Adjournment debate next week.

It seems that, just as the Leader of the House is hitting his stride, we will have a new Prime Minister. I have asked the Leader of the House this before, but will he tell us whether there will be a statement from the new Prime Minister that has not been included in the business for next week, or at least set out the timetable for what will happen next Wednesday, when the former Prime Minister will go to the Palace? I assume that the new Prime Minister will go to the Palace on the same day.

The Leader of the House said that we would return from the recess on 3 September. Is he able to say whether the House will sit throughout the conference recess?

The pound has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar in 27 months, and to its lowest level this year against the euro, because of the prospect of no deal. No deal would have a damaging effect on research: EU research funding would cease overnight. In 2016, the nine Russell Group universities engaged in 50 large European collaborations; in 2018, the number fell to 20. The Leader of the House will have heard from Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society, how much more we get back when we collaborate with Europe in science projects.

Some Members seem to know more than the Chancellor. The Chancellor has said that there will be a £90 billion contraction in the economy if there is no deal, but someone who is not the Chancellor reckons that leaving without a deal would boost the economy by £80 billion. Who is right?

How is the Leader of the House getting on with setting up the Joint Select Committee that I asked about last week? We have received a Lords message about it, and I know that the Leader of the House was keen to respond to it

“this side of the recess”.—[Official Report, 11 July 2019; Vol. 663, c. 462.]

He also said that he was having discussions with his end of the usual channels. Will they be the same usual channels next week? We need a response urgently, because we need to do this for the good of our country.

Despite what you and the Leader of the House said last week, Mr Speaker, Prorogation is now becoming a major issue. The team of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) have confirmed that they are looking into the possibility of proroguing Parliament for up to two weeks in October. A member of the team has said:

“A number of ideas are under consideration, including this one.”

Friends of the right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped to have a “simple trade pact” with the United States ready to go on the day of Brexit, 31 October, but the Secretary of State for International Trade said that a deal could not be agreed before then. He said:

“We can’t negotiate anything with the US until after we’ve left the European Union. It would be in breach of European law”.

Who is right?

The Government were defeated in the other place yesterday on an amendment relating to intentions to prorogue Parliament. Now both Houses have spoken. I know that the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill is due to come back to this House shortly, so can the Leader of the House categorically state that Prorogation will not happen, and that it is against the will of the House and democracy?

Mr Speaker, you kindly granted the urgent question yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq). As Nazanin said, she went to visit her parents and has ended up in an asylum. This cannot be about a woman against a tanker; it is like a butterfly being crushed against a wheel. We say to the Iranian Government, “Show your humanity to an innocent woman and release her to her family.” And as you said yesterday, Mr Speaker, we won’t let go. I know that the Leader of the House has taken a keen interest in this matter: what update does he have for the House following the urgent question yesterday?

Ahead of the summer recess, I ask the Leader of the House to raise some matters with his colleagues in the Cabinet. Will he make representations to the Secretary of State for Education to tell all parents of schoolchildren, when they are taking their children abroad, that female genital mutilation is illegal: it is not a cultural issue and it is not a religious issue; it is an assault. And I would like the Secretary of State for International Development to say to those who are carrying out this practice that they should retrain so that they help the young women, not hurt them.

As we celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, marking someone who suffered a terrible injustice but worked for a better society, I am sure all hon. Members will join me in welcoming the Bank of England’s decision to have Alan Turing on the £50 note; he was a genius, and during world war two he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma code. He has been credited with shortening the war by as much as two years, saving countless lives in the process, and it is terrible that he could not witness how much we value his life.

We are celebrating the moon landing, and I am sure everyone was excited when they saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. I know I was; I was watching it on television in the sitting room and then ran out and looked at the moon and thought about the fact that someone was standing on it. I think I wanted to be an astronaut, but in the end I ended up here, which is not the Sea of Tranquillity. We should use our creativity and talent not to destroy each other, but for the good of all and our precious Earth.