- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
I asked the Leader of the House to confirm that the Government are not using the Procedure Committee to take sovereignty away from Parliament by not giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal? This is not a minority dictatorship; this is a parliamentary democracy, and Parliament is sovereign. This is the most outrageous power grab by the Government that has ever been seen.
You can read my speech in full below:
Congratulations from our side of the House too, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. Let me start by paying tribute to Patricia Hollis, who has sadly died. She made an incredible contribution to public life. I know that she will be missed by the Labour party, but I also know that the whole country is at a loss without her amazing talents.
I am pleased to learn that the Offensive Weapons Bill will be back on Monday, but I think that it would have been helpful if the Government had informed the Opposition in time. There were three statements last Monday, and two points of order on the change of business. There were also three hours remaining, during which we could have debated the Bill, but the House rose early, at 7 pm. Will the Leader of the House ensure that all parties are told of any change of business as soon as possible?
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the February recess dates. It is half-term for many parents. May I try again, and ask her to discuss the Easter recess dates with her colleagues?
The Leader of the House said that on Wednesday the House would debate the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill. Will she join me in welcoming members of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which will hold its 57th plenary session this weekend? They will come to Parliament next Tuesday, and will meet Mr Speaker—and hopefully you as well, Mr Deputy Speaker. Both the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) have worked hard to promote co-operation between the UK and Irish Parliaments, which will be very important in the forthcoming months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) is the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery, and wanted to remind us that today is Anti-slavery Day. The Walk Free Foundation estimates that there are 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK; in 2014 there were 13,000. The charity Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are 2,118 children identified as potential victims of child trafficking in the UK, a 66% increase on the year before. But the charity has said that the UK Government do not have a coherent plan for preventing child trafficking. May we have a statement on what the Government are doing to tackle modern slavery in the UK?
It is Black History Month and tomorrow is wear red day, a campaign by Show Racism the Red Card. I and many other hon. Members signed a petition for the removal of a sociology textbook approved by the exam board AQA, which is presumably also approved by the Department for Education, which perpetuated an untrue racial stereotype about African-Caribbean men. The book has now been withdrawn.
Why does it take a petition or legal action by the Child Poverty Action Group about employment and support allowance underpayments for vulnerable people to get the money to which they are entitled? Now, after pressure, universal credit has also been delayed. We needed the reassurances that the Leader of the House gave last week that we can debate regulations on the Floor of the House in the usual way, but I want more than that from her—I want to be told that we are going to debate the managed migration to UC, whenever that happens, on the Floor of the House and have a vote.
The Government clearly cannot manage their Departments, nor, it seems, can they be fiscally credible unless they are taking money from the vulnerable. We have seen that in Tory-controlled Northampton. The shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has asked about this: can the Leader of the House say what NEA Properties, a company owned by cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council, spent £1.5 million on? Nobody knows what that is about. It is said it was spent on unspecified “projects”; there were no external checks.
Turning to the European Union, can the Leader of the House update the House on whether the Government are on top of the 800 statutory instruments that need to be laid before Parliament before the UK exits the EU? The Journal Office has said that only 33 negative SIs relating to the UK’s exit from the EU have been laid and only 46 proposed SIs are currently going through the European Statutory Instruments Committee. Last week a Delegated Legislation Committee sadly took one hour to discuss one SI, and the Minister present did not even have the necessary information about the impact of the SI, nor whether the Government had conducted an equalities assessment. Can the Leader of the House give us a timetable for when the EU SIs will be laid and the affirmative ones debated?
Is Parliament sovereign? Last night we learned that the Prime Minister cannot win in a straight vote without fixing the rules. The Government have fought at every stage to avoid a vote on a final meaningful deal. Our clever shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union added those words for a reason—“a meaningful vote”, he said, not a meaningless vote. Has anyone checked with “Dicey on the Constitution”? Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are not using the Procedure Committee to take sovereignty away from Parliament by not giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal? This is not a minority dictatorship; this is a parliamentary democracy, and Parliament is sovereign. This is the most outrageous power grab by the Government that has ever been seen. Will the Leader of the House make a statement to the House on the constitutional position of not allowing an amendable motion, and will she do her constitutional duty of being the House’s representative in Cabinet?
Staying with the EU, there is good news: we congratulate England on beating Spain, in Spain, for the first time in 38 years. Who says you can’t win with kids? And it seems that the full English special is back on the menu, and in Climate Change Week, the “fracking three” are free. We have had “Girl with Balloon” shredded, and now it seems that Banksy’s latest is “Woman with Chequers Plan shredded.”